Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) was a landscape painter of German Romanticism (art movement of the late 18th, early 19th centuries), of which he is now considered one of the most important painters and artists. Friedrich was most fascinated by nature, and many of his landscape paintings were inspired by Northern Germany — with its woods, night skies, hills, and morning mists.
About the Introductory Image
The image at the top of this column is titled “The Wanderer above the Mists” — completed by the artist in the period 1817-1818. The painting is also known as ”Wanderer above the Sea of Fog” (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons; used under public domain license).
Early Life Marked by Death
Caspar David Friedrich was the sixth of 10 children of a family living in Greifswald, Germany. The artist had early experience with death: in 1781 — when Friedrich was 7 years old — he saw his mother die. When the artist was 14 years of age, he witnessed his brother fall through the ice of a frozen lake and drown. Lastly, one of his sisters died in 1782, and a second one succumbed to typhus in 1791. Some people — mainly contemporary artists — attributed Friedrich’s sorrow in his art to these childhood events.
Studying Art as a Young Student
Friedrich began to study art in 1790 at the University of Greifswald. The artist also demonstrated a keen interest in literature and aesthetics. In 1794, Friedrich got into the prestigious Academy of Copenhagen, Denmark. The young artist had the chance to access Copenhagen’s Royal Picture Gallery, where he could dive into 17th-century Dutch landscape paintings — for which he had an extreme interest.
Artistic Fame Finally Arrives
His first important painting came at the age of 34, but his recognition as an artist began when Friedrich won a prize at the Weimar competition in 1805. In 1810, the painter was elected member of the Berlin Academy, after Prussian Crown Prince purchased two of his paintings. Moreover, six years later the artist was elected a member of the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts.
Finding Death in 1840
In June 1835, Friedrich suffered a stroke, and his ability to paint was greatly diminished. This event influenced his art, of course, and symbols of death appeared heavily in the artworks of this period. By 1838, he was almost incapable of artistic work, lived in poverty, and was increasingly dependent on the charity of friends. The artist died in May 1840.
In 1818, Friedrich married Caroline Bommer. The couple had three children. His work had a new approach after the marriage. Female figures appeared more often than usual, and the dominating austerity was lessened, too.