Caspar David Friedrich
- The artist should not only paint what he sees before him, but also what he sees in himself. If, however, he sees nothing within him, then he should also refrain from painting what he sees before him. Otherwise his pictures will be like those folding screens behind which one expects to find only the sick or the dead.
- Quoted in "The Awe-Struck Witness" in TIME magazine (28 October 1974) and in "On the Brink : The Artist and the Seas" by Eldon N. Van Liere in Poetics of the Elements in the Human Condition: The Sea (1985) edited by Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka
- Variant translations:
The artist should not only paint what he sees before him, but also what he sees within him. If, however, he sees nothing within him, then he should also omit to paint that which he sees before him.
- As quoted in German Romantic Painting (1994) by William Vaughan, p. 68
- The painter should paint not only what he has in front of him, but also what he sees inside himself. If he sees nothing within, then he should stop painting what is in front of him.
- I must stay alone and know that I am alone to contemplate and feel nature in full; I have to surrender myself to what encircles me, I have to merge with my clouds and rocks in order to be what I am. Solitude is indispensible for my dialogue with nature.
- As quoted in Authenticity and Fiction in the Russian Literary Journey, 1790-1840 (2000) by Andreas Schönle, p. 108, from memoirs of Vasily Zhukovsky
- Variant translation: I have to stay alone in order to fully contemplate and feel nature.
- Close your bodily eye, so that you may see your picture first with the spiritual eye. Then bring to the light of day that which you have seen in the darkness so that it may react upon others from the outside inwards. A picture must not be invented but felt. Observe the form exactly, both the smallest and the large and do not separate the small from the large, but rather the trivial from the important.
- Quoted in The Romantic Imagination: Literature and Art in England and Germany (1996) by Fredrick Berwick and Jürgn Klein, and in "Culture: Caspar D. Friedrich and the Wasteland" by Gjermund E. Jansen in Bits of News (3 March 2005)
- Variant translation: Close your bodily eye, that you may see your picture first with the eye of the spirit. Then bring to light what you have seen in the darkness, that its effect may work back, from without to within.
- The divine is everywhere, even in a grain of sand; there I represented it in the reeds.
- On his painting Swans in the Rushes (c.1820), as quoted in "Absent Presences in Liminal Places: Murnau's Nosferatu and the Otherworld of Stoker's Dracula" by Saviour Catania in Literature Film Quarterly (2004)
- The pure, frank sentiments we hold in our hearts are the only truthful sources of art. A painting which does not take its inspiration from the heart is nothing more than futile juggling. All authentic art is conceived at a sacred moment and nourished in a blessed hour; an inner impulse creates it, often without the artist being aware of it.
Quotes about Friedrich
- Here is a man who has discovered the tragedy of landscape.
- David d’Angers, as quoted in Romantic Poets, Critics, and Other Madmen (1998) by Charles Rosen, p. 87
- On the day he is painting air he may not be spoken to!
- Friedrich's wife Caroline, as quoted in "The Awe-Struck Witness" in TIME magazine (28 October 1974)
- Friedrich empties his canvas in order to imagine, through an invocation of the void, an infinite, unrepresentable God.
- "Whenever a storm with thunder and lightning moved over the sea, he would hurry out to the top of the cliffs as if he had a pact of friendship with the forces of nature, or even went on into the oakwood where the lightning had split a tall tree from top to bottom, which led him to murmur: 'How great, how mighty, how wonderful!'" Thus a friend remembered the wanderings of Caspar David Friedrich as a young painter on the Baltic island of Rugen in 1802. It was Friedrich's favorite posture: Homo romanticus out in the weather, saluting the crag.
- He never made the obligatory journey south to study in Rome; his subject matter was the foggy and precipitous vista, sublimely expansive and filled with premonitory brooding. The writer Ludwig Tieck believed Friedrich was the Nordic genius incarnate, whose mission was "to express and suggest most sensitively the solemn sadness and religious stimulus which seem recently to be reviving our German world in a strange way." … Friedrich's work, the Dresden painter Ludwig Richter remarked in 1825, does not deal with "the spirit and importance of nature … Friedrich chains us to an abstract idea, using the forms of nature in a purely allegorical manner, as signs and hieroglyphs."
- "The Awe-Struck Witness" in TIME magazine (28 October 1974)
- We visited Friedrich's atelier today. Listening to him and seeing his paintings was wonderful. He has some bonhomie which pleases people and his paintings reveal his romantic imagination. As a rule, he expresses in them one thought or feeling, though vaguely. You may meditate over his paintings but not have a clear understanding of them, for they are vague even in his soul. They are dreams or daydreams. He often employs very simple natural things, such as an ice block floating on sea waves, a few trees in a dale, window of his room (facing the beautiful Elbe), knight meditating over ruins or tombstones, monk staring into the distance or below his feet: all this captivates your soul, plunges you into dreams, all invokes your imagination, powerfully though vaguely.
- Aleksandr Ivannovich Turgenev, in his diary (6 August 1825)
- Friedrich is recognized today as the supreme German painter of the Romantic era, but in his own time his genius was not so widely acknowledged. This was not because the aims of his art were foreign to the interests of his generation. On the contrary, his allusions to the spiritual in nature, his close study of the local landscape, and his emphasis on the need for inspiration were all commonplace preoccupations of the period. His art was undervalued because it explored these areas with a new uncompromising vision that was too personal and original to be easily grasped.
- William Vaughan in German Romantic Painting (1980), p. 65