Caspar David Friedrich

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Friedrich, Caspar David

(käs`pär dä`fēt frē`drĭkh), 1774–1840, German romantic landscape painter. After studying painting in Copenhagen he visited various scenic spots in Germany and chose to live in Dresden, where he remained until his death. Friedrich's melancholy and symbolic compositions were singular expressions of the significance of landscape and the insignificance of human beings within nature. His use of unusual, often eerie, light effects unified the mood of his works. His approach was a solitary one and his influence in his own time was not great, although he taught from 1816 until his death. Since the 1970s, however, his work has attracted great critical attention and it has influenced several contemporary German artists including Anselm KieferKiefer, Anselm
, 1945–, German painter. One of the major figures of neoexpressionism, he studied (1970) with Joseph Beuys, who heavily influenced his work. His large paintings of the 1970s and early 80s, with their strongly symbolic themes of a savage and contemptible Nazi
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 and Gerhard RichterRichter, Gerhard
, 1932–, German painter, b. Dresden, studied Academy of Fine Arts, Dresden (1951–56) and Düsseldorf (1961–63). Widely considered one of the foremost painters of his generation, he lived for nearly 30 years in East Germany where, cut off
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. Such works as Capuchin Friar by the Sea, Man and Woman Gazing at the Moon (both: Berlin), and Two Men Contemplating the Moon (c.1830, Metropolitan Mus. of Art, New York City) typically project his mystical and pantheistic attitude toward nature.


See studies by H. Börsch-Supan (1974), S. Rewald (2001), Werner Hofmann (2001), J. L. Koerner (2009), and J. Grave (2012).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Friedrich, Caspar David


Born Sept. 5, 1774, in Greifswald; died May 7, 1840, in Dresden. German landscape painter, representative of early romanticism.

Friedrich studied at the Academy of Arts in Copenhagen from 1794 to 1798. He then settled in Dresden, where he became an instructor at the Academy of Arts in 1816. His landscapes of southern Germany and the Baltic coast depict heavily forested wild cliffs and desert dunes, sometimes with one or two human figures disappearing into the distant horizon in a sunlit or moonlit fairytale setting. Friedrich reveals the uncontrolled power and endlessness of nature and the consonance of natural forces with the moods and impulses of the human soul. A sense of breaking through to the unknown is also conveyed. Friedrich’s landscapes are imbued with profound inspiration, joyous animation, penetrating sadness, or, frequently, remote melancholic contemplation. Stylistically they are distinguished by severity of line, precise rhythm of composition, delicate coloring, and rich chiaroscuro. Examples include Landscape With Rainbow (1809, State Art Collection, Weimar), The Stages of Life (c. 1815, Museum of Fine Arts, Leipzig), and Men Observing the Moon (1819–20, Picture Gallery, Dresden). At times Friedrich’s motifs take on symbolic overtones, and notes of sadness and loneliness develop into painful melancholy, a sense of the inevitable transitoriness of everything earthly, and the torpitude of a mystical trance. Such feelings are expressed in Mass in a Gothic Ruin (1819, National Gallery, Berlin), Cloister Graveyard in the Snow (1819, only a fragment is preserved), Shipwreck of the “Hope” in the Ice (1822, Kunsthalle, Hamburg), and Moonrise on the Sea (1823, Berlin Art Museums).


Azadovskii, K. M. “Peizazh v tvorchestve K. D. Fridrikha.” In the collection Problemy romantizma, fasc. 2. Moscow, 1971.
Sumowski, W. Caspar David Friedrich-Studien. Wiesbaden, 1970.
Börsch-Supan, H., and K. W. Jahnig. Caspar David Friedrich. Munich, 1973.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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