Caspar David Friedrich

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Friedrich, c. 1810; 'Self-portrait', drawing; - quote of Friedrich: 'The artist should not only paint what he sees before him, but also what he sees in himself'
'Caspar David Friedrich in his Studio', painted c. 1811 by his friend Georg Friedrich Kersting; - quote of Karl von Kügelgen, c. 1810-20: 'Even the things most necessary to painting - the box of paints, the bottles of linseed oil, and the oil-rag - were moved to the adjoining room, because Friedrich was of the opinion that any objects would disturb his inner world of imagination'

Caspar David Friedrich - in quotes. Caspar David Friedrich (5 September 1774 – 7 May 1840) was a 19th century German painter, considered by many critics to be one of the finest representatives in Europe of the art-movement Romanticism.

Quotes of Caspar David Friedrich[edit]

sorted chronologically, by date of the quotes of Caspar David Friedrich
Friedrich, 1795-1797: 'Church of Lyngby, Denmark', drawing in brown ink
Friedrich, 1794-1798: 'Two Figures contemplating the moon', watercolor, pen and ink on paper
Friedrich, 1798: 'A ship in the ice-sea', oil on canvas
Friedrich, 1802: 'Rügen landscape with bay', gouache-painting on paper
Friedrich, 1803: 'Spring - The Morning - The childhood', pencil-sketch in brush with sepia over a faint; - quote of Friedrich, Aug. 1803 about his painting! 'Spring': '..the children, who enjoy the blissful moments of the present without wanting to know what lies beyond. Bushes in bloom, nourishing herbs, and sweet-smelling flowers.. .There is no stone to be seen here, no withered branch, no fallen leaves. The whole of nature breathes, peace, joy, innocence and life'
Friedrich 1804: 'study of an Oaktree', drawing in pencil
Friedrich, c. 1805: 'Pilgrimage at Sunset (Sunrise)', sepia ink over pencil on paper; - quote of Philipp Otto Runge, 1805: 'We urge the artist [Friedrich] to undertake serious study of antiquity and of nature as the ancients saw it'
Friedrich, 1805-06: 'View of Arkona with Rising Moon', with pencil, brush and brown ink
Friedrich, 1805-06: 'View from the artist's studio in Dresden on the Elbe ', sepia ink on paper
Friedrich, 1807: 'Cairn in Snow', oil-painting on canvas
Friedrich, 1807: 'The summer (Landscape with lovers)', oil-painting
Friedrich, 1807-08: 'Cross in the Mountains' (altarpiece Tetschen), oil on canvas; - quote of Friedrich, c. 810: 'Jesus Christ, nailed to the Cross, is turned to the setting sun, here the image of the totally enlivening Father. With Christ dies the wisdom of the old world, the time when God the Father wandered directly on Earth..'
Friedrich, c. 1808-10: 'The Monk by the Sea / Der Mönch am Meer', oil-painting; - quote by Clemens Brentano, 1810: '[standing before the painting:]..and so I myself became the monk, and the painting became the dune, but the sea itself, on which I should have looked out with longing — the sea was absent'
Friedrich, c. 1809-10: 'Abbey among Oak Trees', oil-painting; - quote of Goethe, c. 1810: 'Here is coldness, impetuousness, dying, and despair.' / quote of David d'Angers, c. 1830-40's: 'Here is a man who has discovered the tragedy of landscape'
Friedrich, 1812: 'Cross in the Mountains', oil-painting on canvas
Friedrich, 1812: 'Tombs of the Fallen in the Fight for Independence', oil-painting
Friedrich, c. 1815: 'Kreuz an der Ostsee / The Cross Beside The Baltic', oil-painting: - quote of Friedrich, in a letter to Louise Seidler, 1815: '..there is no church in it, not a single tree or plant, not a blade of grass. On a bare and rocky seashore there stands, high up, the cross - for those who see it that way, a consolation, and for those who don't see it that way, just a cross'
Friedrich, c. 1817: 'The wanderer above the sea of fog' oil-painting; - quote of Friedrich: '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'
Friedrich, c. 1818: 'Chalk Cliffs on Rügen', oil-painting; quote of Friedrich: 'The divine is everywhere, even in a grain of sand..'
Friedrich, c, 1818: 'Woman before the Rising Sun (Woman before the Setting Sun)', oil-painting; - quote of Friedrich: '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'
Friedrich, c. 1820: 'Hünengrab im Herbst / Dolmen in Autumn', oil-painting
Friedrich, c. 1818-24: 'Man and Woman contemplating the moon', oil-painting; - quote of William Vaughan, 1990: 'Friedrich is recognized today as the supreme German painter of the Romantic era..'
Friedrich, c. 1822: 'Tree of crows' (coast of the Baltic Sea), oil-painting
Friedrich, c. 1823-24: 'The Sea of ice', mistakenly known as 'The wreck of the Hope', oil-painting
Friedrich, 1826: 'Graveyard under Snow', oil-painting
Friedrich, 1828: 'Bohemian Landscape', pen and watercolor on cardboard
Friedrich, 1828: 'Tannen am Wasserfall / Evergreens by the Waterfall', oil-painting
Friedrich, c. 1830: 'The temple of Juno in Agrigento', oil-painting; - quote of Joseph Leo Koerner, 1990: 'Friedrich empties his canvas in order to imagine, through an invocation of the void, an infinite, unrepresentable God'
Friedrich, 1832: 'Sumpfiger Strand / Marshy Beach', oil-painting
Friedrich, 1835: 'Wreck in the Moonlight', oil-painting
Friedrich, c. 1835: 'Memories of the Giant Mountains', oil-painting

Quotes, 1794 - 1840[edit]

  • The beauty, the spirit of Germany, its sun, moon, stars, rocks, seas and rivers can never be expressed this way..
    • Quote of Friedrich, shortly after his return in 1798; as quoted in C. D. Friedrich by H.W. Grohn; Kindlers Malerei Lexicon, Zurich, 1965, II p. 46; as cited & transl. by Linda Siegel in Caspar David Friedrich and the Age of German Romanticism, Boston Branden Press Publishers, 1978, p. 17
    • Friedrich is referring to the typical landscape and atmosphere of Denmark, he intensively experienced for four years. In 1798 Friedrich left Copenhagen and returned to Germany, to Dresden
  • I just stepped out of the dark, still forest and found myself on a rising hill. In front of me I saw a valley, surrounded by fertile hills, in which a town stood and the newly covered slate roof of the tower glowed in the evening light. Through the richly-flowered, carpeted meadow the river meandered.. .And behind the hills lay the mountains.. ..cliff after cliff rose far out into the horizon.. .Filled with soaring joy I stood there a long time and looked at the beautiful area..
    • Quote from Friedrich's Diary-notes, 1803; as cited by C. D. Eberlein in C. D. Friedrich - Bekenntnisse, pp. 72-73; translated and quoted by Linda Siegel in Caspar David Friedrich and the Age of German Romanticism, Boston Branden Press Publishers, 1978, p. 45
  • Gently rising hills block the view into the distance; line the wishes and desires of the children, who enjoy the blissful moments of the present without wanting to know what lies beyond. Bushes in bloom, nourishing herbs, and sweet-smelling flowers surround the quiet clear stream in which the pure blue of the cloudless sky is reflected like the glorious image of God in the souls of the children.. .There is no stone to be seen here, no withered branch, no fallen leaves. The whole of nature breathes, peace, joy, innocence and life.
  • Through the gloomy clouds break / Blue sky, sunshine, / On the heights and in the valley / Sing the lark and the nightingale
    God, I thank you that I live / Not forever in this world / Strengthen me that my soul rise / Upward toward your firmament.
    • some poetry lines of Friedrich, c. 1802-05; as cited by C. D. Eberlein in C. D. Friedrich Bekenntnisse, p 57; as quoted & translated by Linda Siegel in Caspar David Friedrich and the Age of German Romanticism, Boston Branden Press Publishers, 1978, p. 48
  • Alas, the blue arc of heaven / Is covered with gloomy clouds, / And the bright radiance of the sun / Is completely hidden
    See the terrifying force of the tempest / Bows the oaks so that is groans, / And the rose on the beautiful pasture / has ben bent down by the rain.
    • some poetry lines of Friedrich, c. 1807-09; as cited by C. D. Eberlein in C. D. Friedrich Bekenntnisse, p 57; as quoted and translated by Linda Siegel in Caspar David Friedrich and the Age of German Romanticism, Boston Branden Press Publishers, 1978, p. 52
  • If a painting has a soulful effect on the viewer, if it puts his mind into a soulful mood, then it has fulfilled the first requirement of a work of art. However bad it might be in drawing, color, handling, etc.
    • Quote of Friedrich from his letter, 8 Feb. 1809, to 'Akademiedirektor Schulz'; as cited by Helmut Bôrsch-Supan and Karl Wilhelm Jàhnig in Caspar David Friedrich: Gemâlde, Druckgraphik und bildmassige Zeichnungen (Munich: Prestel, 1973), 182-83, esp. 183; translation, David Britt - note 117
  • Jesus Christ, nailed to the Cross [in his painting 'Cross in the Mountains (Tetschen Altar)',] is turned to the setting sun, here the image of the totally enlivening Father. With Christ dies the wisdom of the old world, the time when God the Father wandered directly on Earth. This sun set and the world was no longer able to apprehend the departed light. The evening glow shining from the pure noble metal of the golden crucified Christ is reflected in gentle glow to the earth. The Cross stands raised on a rock, unshakably firm, as our faith in Jesus Christ. Around the Cross stand the evergreens, enduring through all seasons, as does the belief of Man in Him, the crucified.
    • Quote of Friedrich, c. 1810; cited by Timothy F. Mitchell, (1982) in 'From Vedute to Vision: The Importance of Popular Imagery in Friedrich's Development of Romantic Landscape Painting', The 'Art Bulletin', 64 (3): pp. 414–424
    • Friedrich responded to critics on his painting 'Cross in the Mountains' by describing his intentions; the only time that he publicly offered commentary on his own art
  • Why, the question is often asked of me
Do you choose as subjects for painting
So often death, perishing and the grave?
In order to one day live eternally
One must often submit oneself to death.
(in original language - German: Warum, die Frag' ist oft zu mir ergangen / Wählst du zum Gegenstand der Malerei / So oft den Tod, Vergänglichkeit und Grab? / Um ewig einst zu leben / Muss man sich oft dem Tod ergeben.)
  • Quote c. 1812; from Caspar David Friedrich, William Vaughn; London: Tate Gallery, 1972, p. 16–17
  • The picture [Friedrich's painting: 'The Cross on the Baltic Sea' ] for your friend has already been sketched out, but there is no church in it, not a single tree or plant, not a blade of grass. On a bare and rocky seashore there stands, high up, the cross - for those who see it that way, a consolation, and for those who don't see it that way, just a cross.
  • 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.
    • Quote of Friedrich, 1821; as cited 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.
    • This answer of Friedrich is recorded by Vasily Zhukovsky who asked the painter in 1821 to travel together to Switzerland
  • Sometimes I try to think and nothing comes out of it; but it happens that I doze off and suddenly feel as though someone is rousing me. I am startled, open my eyes and watch my mind.. .Sometimes I try to think and nothing comes out of it; but it happens that I doze off and suddenly feel as though someone is rousing me. I am startled, open my eyes, and what my mind was looking for stands before me like an apparition - at once I seize my pencil to draw; the main thing has been done.
  • ..the great white blanket of snow [in one of his painting of Cemetery / Church in the Snow, mid-1820's].. ..the essence of the utmost purity, beneath which nature prepares herself for a new life..

Quotes, undated[edit]

  • Just as the reverent man prays without uttering words, and the Lord hears him, the sensitive painter paints, and the sensitive man understands and recognizes him, but even the more obtuse carry away something from his work.
  • Man should not be held as an absolute standard for mankind, but the Godly, the infinite is his goal.. .Follow without hesitation the voice of your inner self; for it is the Godly in us and leads us not to astray..
    • Quote from Caspar David Friedrich, by Irma Emmerich; Herman Böhlaus, Weimar, 1964, p. 11; as cited & transl. by Linda Siegel in Caspar David Friedrich and the Age of German Romanticism, Boston Branden Press Publishers, 1978, p. 4
  • 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.
    • Quote from "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) ed. 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
  • 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.
  • You should keep sacred every impuls of your mind; you should keep sacred every pious sentiment; because that is art in us. In an inspired hour she will appear in a clear form, and this form will be your picture.
    • as quoted in Nature and Culture: American Landscape and Painting, 1825-1875, Barbara Novak; Oxford University Press, 2007, note 74
  • 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.
  • You call me a misanthrope because I avoid society. You err; I love society. Yet in order not to hate people, I must avoid their company.
    • Quote in Caspar David Friedrich and the Subject of Landscape; Joseph Koerner, p. 66; as cited in the article 'Caspar David Friedrich's Medieval Burials', Karl Whittington - [2]
  • The artist's feeling is his law. Genuine feeling can never be contrary to nature; it is always in harmony with her. But another person's feelings should never be imposed on us as law. Spiritual affinity leads to similarity in work, but such affinity is something entirely different from mimicry. Whatever people may say of Y's paintings and how they often resemble Z's, yet they proceed from Y and are his sole property.
    • Quote from Friedrich's writings Thoughts on Art, Caspar David Friedrich; as quoted in Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963, p. 32
    • Variant translation:
      The artist's feeling is his law. Pure sensibility can never be Unnatural; it is always in harmony with nature. But the feelings of another must never be imposed on us as our law. Spiritual relationship produces artistic resemblance, but this relationship is very different from imitation. Whatever one may say about X.'s paintings, and however much they may resemble Y.'s, they originated in him and are his own. (** In: 'Caspar David Friedrich's Medieval Burials', Karl Whittington - [3])
  • Every truthful work of art must express a definite feeling, must move the spirit of the spectator either to joy or to sadness.. ..rather than try to unite all sensations, as thought mixed together with a twirling stick.
    • Quote in: 'Caspar David Friedrich's Medieval Burials', Karl Whittington - [4]
  • What pleases us about the older paintings is above all their pious simplicity.. .However, we do not want to become simple as many have done, but rather become pious and imitate their virtues.
    • Quote of Friedrich; quoted by C. D. Eberlein in C. D. Friedrich Bekenntnisse, pp. 72-73; as cited by Linda Siegel in Caspar David Friedrich and the Age of German Romanticism, Boston Branden Press Publishers, 1978, p. 36
    • it is possible that Friedrich refers critically in the second part of his remark to the Nazarenes
  • I am far from wanting to resist the demands of my time, except when they are purely a matter of fashion. Instead, I continue to hope that time itself will destroy its own offspring, perhaps quite soon. But I am not so weak as to submit to the demands of the age when they go against my convictions. I spin a cocoon around myself; let others do the same. I shall leave it up to time to show what will come of it: a brilliant butterfly or a maggot.
    • Quote in 'Caspar David Friedrich's Medieval Burials', Karl Whittington - [5]
  • People say of such-and-such a painter that he has great command of his brush. Might it not be more correct to say that he is controlled of his brush? Merely for the satisfaction of his vanity, to paint brilliantly and display skill with the brush, he has sacrificed the nobler considerations of naturalness and truth – and thus achieved sorry fame as a brilliant technician.
    • Quote from Friedrich's writings Thoughts on Art, Caspar David Friedrich; as quoted in Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963, p. 32
  • In this big moonlit landscape by the painter N.N., that deservedly celebrated technician, one sees more than one would wish, or that can actually be seen by moonlight. But what the perceptive, sensitive soul looks for in every painting, and rightly expects to find, is missing.. ..If that painter could find it in himself to paint fewer, but more deeply-felt, pictures instead of so many clever ones, his contemporaries and posterity would be more grateful to him.
    • Quote from Friedrich's writings Thoughts on Art, Caspar David Friedrich; as quoted in Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963, p. 33
  • To many it is incomprehensible that art has to emerge from a person's inner being, 'that it has to do with one's morality, one's religion..'. But so it does. You should trade only in what you recognize to be true and beautiful, noble and good in your soul.
    • Quote in Caspar David Friedrich, Wieland Schmied; Harry N. Abrams, Inc. New York, 1995, p. 45
  • People are always talking about 'incidentals'; but nothing is incidental in a picture, everything is indispensable to the whole effect, so nothing must be neglected. If a man can give value to the main part of his composition only by negligent treatment of the subordinate portions, his work is in a bad way. Everything must and can be carefully executed, without the different parts obtruding themselves on the eye. The proper subordination of the parts to the whole is not achieved by neglecting incidental features, but by correct grouping and by the distribution of light and shadow.
    • Quote from Friedrich's writings Thoughts on Art, Caspar David Friedrich; as quoted in Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963, pp. 33-34
  • It is doubtful whether the artist [unknown] altogether knew what he depicted here in this panel, and even more doubtful whether he could have expressed it in words. That which we praise here as well thought-out and cleverly arranged may, in fact, have been achieved by him unconsciously; for the artist was transformed by pure harmoniousness while executing this picture, and his feeling become his law. Only his disposition, his spiritual exaltation, could have brought forth such a fruit as this picture. Just as the pious man prays without speaking a word and the Almighty hearkens unto him, so the artist with true feeling paints and the sensitive man understands and recognizes it; while even the less sensitive gain some inkling of it.
    • Quote of Friedrich, cited in: Vaughan, William-Börsch-Supan, Helmut- Neidhardt, Hans Joachim, Caspar David Friedrich. 1774-1840. Romantic Landscape Painting in Dresden, London, The Tate gallery, 1972, p. 104
  • When a landscape is enveloped in mist it appears larger, more majestic, and increases the power of imagination.. .The eye and the imagination are on the whole more attracted.
  • What the newer landscape artists see in a circle of a hundred degrees in Nature they press together unmercifully into an angle of vision of only forty-five degrees. And furthermore, what is in Nature separated by large spaces, is compressed into a cramped space and overfills and oversatiates the eye, creating an unfavorable and disquieting effect on the viewer.
    • Quote of Friedrich, as cited by Timothy Mitchell, (September 1984), in 'Caspar David Friedrich's Der Watzmann: German Romantic Landscape Painting and Historical Geology', 'The Art Bulletin', 66 (3), p. 452–464, doi:10.2307/3050447, JSTOR 3050447

Quotes about Caspar David Friedrich[edit]

sorted chronologically, by date of the quotes about Caspar David Friedrich

Quotes about, 1800 -1820[edit]

  • We urge the artist [Friedrich] to undertake serious study of antiquity and of nature as the ancients saw it.
    • Quote of Philipp Otto Runge, c. 1805; as cited in Friedrich by Wieland Schmied; transl. Russell Stockman; ed. James Leggio; Harry N. Abrams, New York 1995, p. 9
    • Runge is reacting on the sepia 'Pilgrimage at Sunset' which Friedrich sent in for the [neoclassical] exhibiton: 'The life of Hercules', 1805 in Weimar, Germany
  • Here is coldness, impetuousness, dying, and despair.
    • Quote of Goethe, c. 1810; as cited in Schmied, Caspar David Friedrich, p. 4; as cited in 'Caspar David Friedrich's Medieval Burials', Karl Whittington - [6]
    • Goethe is referring to Friedrich's painting 'Abbey in the Oak Forest'
  • The works of Friedrich differ greatly from those of other landscape painters in their motifs. The air - even though he paints it masterfully - takes up more than half of the space in most of his compositions. Middle- and background are often missing because his motifs don't require them. He likes to paint unfathomable plains. He is faithful to nature even in the smallest details and he has mastered his technique - in his oil paintings and sepia drawings - to perfection. His landscapes contain a melancholy, mysteriously religious meaning. They affect the heart more than the eye.
  • ..I must not neglect to report to you the three friends I have won. The firsts the composer Carl Maria [von] Weber.. ... the second, the landscape painter Friedrich.. ..His paintings are actually lyrical poems.. ..I described for him lately, when we conversed of suchlike moods, the rare beauty of the moonlight that we [Hjort and Olivia Rasbech] observed as we wandered past the old limestone kiln, and my words fell so fortuitously that he burst out: Das mach ich Ihnen! [I shall paint that for you!].. ..prepared to take my leave he said: Give me the lady's address the next time we meet, and you shall find that upon your return from this voyage, the painting shall adorn her wall.. .. At the very next meeting between us, he demanded to be shown your portrait, which I naturally had in my possession, and he already had a first draft of the painting, which he showed to me with these very words: Nicht wahr? So war's? [That’s how it was, wasn't it?].. .I hesitated for a few weeks, but then I had to yield, upon which he solemnly declared: Ein festes Auge, das ist jafast wie ein Knäblein! Mag's einen herrlichen Charakter geben, wenn sie ins Leben tritt [A firm gaze; it is almost like that of a small boy! May it give her a delightful character when she steps out into life].
    • Quote of Peder Hjort, in his letter of half Nov. 1817, to his fiancee, Olivia Rasbech; as cited in catalogue-text 'Friedrich and Two Danish MoonWatchers', by Kasper Monrad; transl. from the Danish, Jeffrey V. Lazarus and Nicolai Paulsen; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2001, pp. 22-23
    • Hojrt arrived (from Norway) in Dresden 27 Sept. 1817 and stayed there until 23 Nov. - a friendship grew between him and Friedrich.
  • 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!'
  • ..it was a picture of the kind that only an aeronaut can see, when he rises in his airship above the height of the clouds.. ..up to where.. ..the untroubled blue of the heaven is visible between the wisps of mist.

'Various Expressions Experienced Before A Seascape With..', 1810'[edit]

Quotes from: 'Various Expressions Experienced Before A Seascape With A Monk By Caspar David Friedrich', 1810; Heinrich von Kleist, Achim von Arnim & Clemens Brentano - reacting on Friedrich's painting 'The Monk by the Sea'; in 'Berliner Abendblätter', Oct 1810; translation in English - Jeremy Hunt - Director of the Art & Architecture Journal / Press
  • It is magnificent to stand in infinite solitude on the seashore, beneath an overcast sky, and to look on an endless waste of water. Part of this feeling is the fact that one has made life's way there and yet must go back, that one would like to cross over but cannot, that one sees nothing to support life and yet senses the voice of life in the sigh of the waves, the murmur of the air, the passing clouds and the lonely cry of birds.
    • Quote by Clemens Brentano
  • Part of this feeling is a claim made by the heart and a rejection, if I may call it that, on the part of nature. But this is impossible in front of the picture, and what I should have found in the picture itself I found only between myself and the picture, namely a claim my heart made on the picture and the picture's rejection of me; and so I myself became the monk, and the picture became the dune, but the sea itself, on which I should have looked out with longing — the sea was absent.
    • Quote by Clemens Brentano
  • There can be nothing sadder or more desolate in the world than this place: the only spark of life in the broad domain of death, the lonely center in the lonely circle. The picture, with its two or three mysterious subjects (monk, dune, sea), lies there like an apocalypse..
    • Quote by Heinrich von Kleist
  • it is as if one's eyelids had been cut off. Yet the painter has undoubtedly broken an entirely new path in the field of his art, and I am convinced that with his spirit, a square mile of the sand of Mark Brandenburg could be represented with a barberry bush, on which a lone crow might sit preening itself
    • Quote by Heinrich von Kleist
  • Why, if the artist painted this landscape using its own chalk and its own water, I believe he would make the foxes and wolves weep: the most powerful praise, without doubt, that could be given to this kind of landscape painting.
    • Quote by Heinrich von Kleist
  • Yet my own impressions of this wonderful painting are too confused, and so, before I venture to express them in full, I have decided to learn what I can from the remarks of the couples who pass before it [at the exhibition] from morning till evening. I listened to the remarks of the many viewers around me and now relay them as comments on this painting, which is surely a stage set before which a scene must be acted, for it allows no repose:
    • Quote by Heinrich von Kleist
  • GOVERNESS: Why did he paint nothing but dull skies? How lovely it would be if he had painted some men gathering amber on the seashore.
  • FIRST YOUNG LADY: Oh yes, I'd like to fish for a nice amber necklace for myself.
  • GENTLEMAN: Magnificent, magnificent! This is the only artist who expresses a soul in his landscapes. There is a great individuality in this picture, high truth, solitude, the overcast, melancholy sky — he knows what he’s painting all right.
  • SECOND GENTLEMAN: And he also paints what he knows, and feels it, and thinks it, and paints it.
  • SECOND GENTLEMAN: [the monk].. ..he does predict the weather, he is the one within the wholeness, the lonely center in the lonely circle.
  • FIRST GENTLEMAN: Yes, he is the soul, the heart, the whole picture's reflection in itself and on itself.
  • SECOND GENTLEMAN: How divinely the figure is chosen, it is not merely a device to show the height of the other objects, as in the work of the common run of painters. He is the subject itself, he is the picture; and as he seems to dream himself into this setting, as if into a sad mirror of his isolation, so the ship-less, enclosing sea, which binds him like a vow,
  • FIRST GENTLEMAN: Magnificent, certainly, you are right. (to the Lady) But, my dear, you have not said a word.
  • LADY: Oh, I felt so at home in front of the picture, it truly touched me. It is truly lifelike, and when you were talking like that, it was all hazy, just like when I went for a walk beside the sea with our philosophical friends. I only wish that a fresh sea breeze was blowing and a sail was coming in, and that there was a glint of sunlight and the water was lapping. As it is, it's like a dream, having a nightmare or feeling homesick — let's move on, it's making me feel sad.
  • A TALL, FORBEARING MAN: I am glad that there is still one landscape painter who pays attention to the strange conjunctures of the seasons and the sky, which produce the most striking effects in even the poorest regions. True, I would prefer it if he also had the gift and the technique to represent it truthfully; in this respect he is as far inferior to some of the Dutch School who have painted subjects similar to this as he is their superior in his overall approach.
    • the public - quoted (or created?) by Heinrich von Kleist

Quotes about, 1821 - 1900[edit]

  • ..northerly Ossianic nature reflected the icy air and the chalck-cliffed coasts of the Baltic Sea where he was brought up.
    • Quote of his friend and historian Rühle von Lilienstern, c. 1920; from C. D. Friedrich by H.W. Grohn; Kindlers Malerei Lexicon, Zurich, 1965, II p. 46; as cited & transl. by Linda Siegel in Caspar David Friedrich and the Age of German Romanticism, Boston Branden Press Publishers, 1978, p. 7
    • The German Friedrich studied art in Copenhagen from 1794 till 1798, but was born near the Baltic Sea in North-East Germany
  • Friedrich has now given a task: someone wants to have two pictures - one representing an Italian landscape in all its luxuriant magnificent beauty, the other - the awe inspiring nature of the north. It is the second that Friedrich has undertaken to paint; he does not know what it will be. He is waiting for the moment of inspiration, which frequently comes to him, as he told me, in a dream.
  • Even the things most necessary to painting - the box of paints, the bottles of linseed oil, and the oil-rag - were moved to the adjoining room, because Frederick [Friedrich] was of the opinion that any objects would disturb his inner world of imagination..
  • [Friedrich] ignores the use of light [and] does not strive to adjust his colors to one another or to create a harmony.. ..[but his pictures were] thought-out inventions..
  • 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.
  • From time to time I see the painter Friedrich here. He has started a large landscape [the painting 'Cemetery at Dusk'].. .A large iron gate, which leds into a cemetery, stand open; by the gate, leaning on one of his posts and partly covered by its shadow, a man and a woman can be seen.. ..who have just buried their child and in the night are looking at its grave.. ..it is just a little grass mound, besides which one can see a spade, Streaks of mist lie over the cemetery, they hide the tree trunks from sight so that they seem detached from the ground. One can make out other graves through the misty veil, and, above all, natural monuments[!]; an upright stone looks like a grey ghost.
  • He never made sketches, cartoons, or color studies for his paintings, because he stated (and certainly he was not entirely wrong), that such aids chill the imagination somewhat. He did not begin to paint an image until it stood, living, in the presence of his soul..
  • In landscape it was Friedrich above all whose profound and vigorous mind, with total originality, laid hold of this tangle of banality, staleness, and tedium and—cutting through it with a mordant melancholy — raised from its midst a distinctively new and radiant poetic tendency.
  • What a picture of death this landscape is!.. ..one shudders when looking at it.
  • Artists and connoisseurs saw in Friedrich's art only a kind of mystic, because they themselves were only looking out for the mystic.. ..They did not see Friedrich's faithful and conscientious study of nature in everything he represented.
  • This picture [ 'Man and Woman contemplating the Moon',] full of sentiment and the quietness of nature, was painted by Friedrich in 1819 and he gave it to me in exchange for one of my own works. Friedrich had to copy it several times, but he did not approve of this, hence others copied it as well. Only the deserved destination for the picture, the Royal Picture Gallery, could convince me to part with it.
    • Quote of Johann Christian Dahl 1840, from his letter to the Royal Picture Gallery in Dresden; as cited in catalogue-text 'Caspar David Friedrich Moonwatchers', ed. Sabine Rewald; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2001, p. 15
    • Dahl kept the painting until after Friedrich's death in 1840, when, in memory of his friend, he sold it to the Dresden Gemaldegalerie for eighty taler. There exist three versions of this painting; the second is the Berlin variant, painted in c. 1824
  • Friedrich, with his somewhat stiff and diffuse but highly poetic manner, was the first artist — in painting as a whole, but more especially in landscape painting — who ever assailed and shook up the philistines of Dresden. There had been a great stir when one of his paintings, a crucifix on a rock beneath dark fir trees and against the dying glow of an evening sky, had given rise to a literary controversy conducted on Friedrich's behalf by his friend Gerhard von Kügelchen [Kügelgen] and on the opposing side by a prosaic dilettante, a certain Herr von Ramdohr — to the latter's eventual discomfiture.
  • He [Friedrich] was indeed a strange mixture of temperament, his moods ranging from the gravest seriousness to the gayest humor.. ..But anyone who knew only this side of Friedrich's personality, namely his deep melancholic seriousness, only knew half the man. I have met few people who have such a gift for telling jokes and such a sense of fun as he did, providing that he was in the company of people he liked.
  • Here is a man who has discovered the tragedy of landscape.
    • Quote of David d'Angers, as quoted in Romantic Poets, Critics, and Other Madmen (1998) by Charles Rosen, p. 87

Quotes about, 1900 and later[edit]

  • [Friedrich] worked in the frigid technique of his time, which could hardly inspire a school of modern painting..
  • 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."
    • Quotes from 'The Awe-Struck Witness' in TIME magazine (28 October 1974)
  • The revolutionaire and seaport scenes of Lorrain [French painter Claude Lorrain, strongly admired by Friedrich] contain many artistic principles which form an important part of Friedrich’s style: melting distances where water and sky merge as one, the portrayal of a dreamlike unreal world beyond, seascapes in which early morning light dissolves into mist which engulfs ships that appear as mysterious aspparations, magically floating in fluid ether.
    The assumtion that Friedrich is an isolated figure in the history of art is not correct.
    • Quote of Linda Siegel in Caspar David Friedrich and the Age of German Romanticism, Boston Branden Press Publishers, 1978, p. 14
  • 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.
  • Friedrich's written commentary on aesthetics was limited to a collection of aphorisms set down in 1830, in which he explained the need for the artist to match natural observation with an introspective scrutiny of his own personality.
  • The isolation of Friedrich's back-view figures [in his pictures] underscores their importance. They are alone, solitary, in pairs or in a small group, in a natural setting. They are aliens in the elementary coordinate system of nature. One always feels that they have only just now entered the painting, to pause for a long moment and then go on.
    • Quote of dr. Jen Christian Jensen, in Caspar David Friedrich Life and Work; Barron's, 1981, p. 173
  • It is significant, as William Vaughan remarks in his introduction to Borsch-Supan's catalogue, that churches never appear in Friedrich's work except in the distance, as unreal visions, or as ruins. The visible Church is dead, only the invisible Church, in the heart or revealed through Nature, is alive. This is part of Friedrich's Pietist heritage, a personal religion that refuses all outward forms, all doctrine. To put a landscape on an altar is an aggressive act, as destructive of the old forms as it is creative of a new sensibility.
    • quote of Charles Rosen; in Romanticism and realism : the mythology of nineteenth-century art, Charles Rosen and Henri Zerner; New York : Viking Press, 1984, p. 58
  • How does Friedrich persuade us, again and again, that we are at the very edge of the natural world, ready at last to immerse ourselves in something that, for want of a better word, must be called the supernatural – a domain of the mystical speculation about human life and afterlife that before the Romantics found a proper home in the church?
    • Quote by Robert Rosenblum, in The Romantic Vision of Caspar David Friedrich: Paintings and Drawings from the U.S.S.R. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1990), p. 8
  • To see any of Friedrich's paintings as simply nationalist is, however, mistaken. His paintings are not celebrations of German mysticism so much as examinations of it. Friedrich uses the emptiness of the Baltic shore and the Thuringian forest to suggest the hubris of empire. He is not the prophet of German territorial ambition but its satirist.
    Friedrich's theme is the unconquerability of space. Human beings are tiny interlopers in a world they can never hope to rule. He exposes authority - of the monarchical states, Prussia and the rest, from which German liberals felt so alienated.
  • When not converging on literally nothing, his pictorial schemes address objects that are either remote, like the moon, or obdurate, like the battered oak. Human figures intercept our gaze and transmit it into ineffable distance. The pictures don't give; they take. Something is drawn out of us with a harrowing effect, which Friedrich's use of color nudges toward intoxication. What at first seem to be mere tints in a tonal range combust into distinctly scented, disembodied hues: drenching purples and scratchy russets, plum.

External links[edit]

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