Caspar David Friedrich
250 years of Caspar David Friedrich in Saxony
Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) spent most of his life in Dresden. He travelled extensively in Saxony, preparing sketches and watercolours in his Dresden studio that became masterpieces. In total, he created 150 paintings. Always out and about on foot, he was a kind of early "slow traveller", with a keen eye for nature that his imagination translated into great works of art. Often misunderstood during his lifetime, Caspar David Friedrich is today regarded as the most important German painter of the Romantic period. His most famous painting is probably "Wanderer above the Sea of Fog" (Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer), which was inspired by the wildly romantic landscape of Saxon Switzerland. 2024 sees his 250th birthday which will be celebrated in style in Saxony.
The beauty of Dresden
In the summer of 1798, the then 24-year-old painter and draughtsman came to Dresden to become the artist who still inspires us today, working "in the vicinity of the most excellent art treasures and surrounded by beautiful nature". Dresden was the artist's centre of life for over 40 years.
Jewels along the Elbe River
Caspar David Friedrich did not have to venture far for beautiful walks. The enchanting nature of the Elbe valley led him as far as Meissen, the oldest city in Saxony. But he also encountered plenty of motifs away from the great river.
Picturesque Saxon Switzerland
The Elbe Sandstone Mountains were already discovered by artists in the Baroque period. But it was the Swiss painters Anton Graff and Adrian Zingg who gave the region its present name of "Saxon Switzerland". The bizarre rock formations, majestic table mountains and dense forests also provided plenty of material to inspire Caspar David Friedrich.
Inspiring Zittau Mountains
They might be somewhat overshadowed by Saxon Switzerland, but the Zittau Mountains are a delightful landscape featuring rock formations and dense forests. This did not go unnoticed by Caspar David Friedrich, who found inspiration for his art in this charming scenery.
Outside Dresden, the art collections in Leipzig and Chemnitz also feature works by Caspar David Friedrich. This underlines his great importance for German art, which he himself probably could not have imagined, as he mostly had to struggle to earn a living.
On his traces in Dresden
On his traces in Saxon Elbland
- Framed by the picturesque backdrop of Meissen, Caspar David Friedrich painted the ruins of the Holy Cross Monastery. Dissolved after the Reformation, the building fell into disrepair and was used as a quarry. Today it houses the Hahnemann Centre, which is open to the public. The inventor of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, a contemporary of Caspar David Friedrich, was born in Meissen as the son of a porcelain painter.
- Meissen is located on three rivers, one of them being the Triebisch. At the other end of the Triebisch valley, near Nossen, a monastery ruin was transformed into a romantic park around 1800. The painting "Ruins at Dusk" (Ruinen in der Abenddämmerung), much more sombre than the real-life inspiration, was painted by Caspar David Friedrich 30 years after his visit to today's Altzella Monastery Park, based on his sketches.
On his traces in Saxon Switzerland
On his traces in the Zittau Mountains and on Mount Oybin
- Mount Oybin in the Zittau Mountains in south-eastern Upper Lusatia was particularly inspiring for Caspar David Friedrich. The watercolours and oil paintings he did here of the spectacular monastery ruins perched on top of the beehive-shaped mountain are wonderful examples of why he is considered the master of Romanticism. Other painters were also inspired by the unusual rock.
- Caspar David Friedrich’s best-known work from Oybin is "The Dreamer" (Der Träumer), created with oil on canvas. As in all his works, he used nature as a reflection of human sensibilities and as a symbol of the mystery of all life in this painting. Fun fact: Few artists are today liked as frequently on Instagram as the great Romantic painter, perhaps because his works strike a chord with people looking to take a step back from our hectic times.
Leipzig and Chemnitz