© Kenny Scholz

Caspar David Friedrich

in Saxony

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Art galore

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.

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Romantic getaways in Saxony

Book your German Romanticism break in Saxony, either in

  • The capital city Dresden
  • The breathtaking hiking area Saxon Switzerland
  • The romantic and cozy Zittau Mountains

On his traces in Dresden

© Marcel Quietzsch


Caspar David Friedrich's studio, which was located directly on the Elbe, has not survived. However, he was painted there at work by his friend and colleague Georg Friedrich Kersting in three variations. This depiction served as a model for the Caspar David Friedrich Monument by the artist Wolf-Eike Kuntsche from 1990, which is located on Brühl Terrace.
The Dresden State Art Collections own the largest collection of his works from all his creative phases. Within sight of the Friedrich monument, the New Masters Picture Gallery in the Albertinum building houses 14 Friedrich paintings while in the Kupferstich-Kabinett in Dresden’s Royal Palace visitors can view as many as 70 drawings and a sketchbook.
Painted picture of a graveyard with a tall gate by Caspar David Friedrich© Galerie Neue Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Jürgen Karpinski
The painter’s grave can be visited in Dresden's Trinitatis Cemetery. It was not until the late 1920s that the spot where he had been buried in May 1840 was rediscovered. A curiosity is the alternative spelling of his first name with "K" instead of "C".
© S. Rose

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

Tower of Stolpen Castle, where Countess Cosel was held prisoner© TMGS / Manfred Daams

Saxon Switzerland

A good 12 miles east of Dresden, Caspar David Friedrich visited Stolpen Castle, hundreds of years old and towering above the town of the same name. For 49 years Countess Cosel was imprisoned here, the most famous mistress of the legendary Saxon ruler Augustus the Strong. In the summer of 1820 the painter drew the Cosel Tower, where Countess Cosel last lived.
View of a rock in Saxon Switzerland in the midst of trees, a valley and clouds© Britta Prema Hirschburger
In 1813, at the time of the wars of liberation against the Napoleonic troops, Caspar David Friedrich withdrew to Saxon Switzerland, spending several months in the village of Krippen. During this time, he produced the “Krippen Sketchbook”, with very detailed drawings. Along the 15-kilometre Caspar David Friedrich Hiking Trail around Krippen, ramblers can enjoy panels showcasing the painter’s sketches.
Damp ground full of mossy rocks in the Saxon Switzerland© Philipp Ziegler
One of his hikes also took him to the foot of the Kaiserkrone table mountain. He called the drawing he made there "Rocky Hilltop" (Felsige Kuppe). This is the very rock on which he later placed his famous "Wanderer above the Sea of Fog" painting. He created the oil painting "Uttewald Valley" (Uttewalder Grund) after his stay in a narrow gorge near Lohmen.
Eine Familie steht auf einer vorgelagerten Aussichtsplattform der Basteibrücke und schaut sich die Sandsteinformationen an. © TMGS / D. Stratmann
The 116-kilometre-long, very popular Painters’ Way today connects many of the places and views that fascinated Caspar David Friedrich and other artists. These include Saxon Switzerland’s most famous rock formation, known as Bastei, which he painted without the later Bastei Bridge. Unsurprisingly, the Painters’ Way is one of Germany’s most popular hiking trails.
A woman is painting the landscape© TMGS / Ines Nebelung
Tip: Try a guided painting tour through the Elbe Sandstone Mountains with artists from the region to find you own artistic perspective and, just like the “slow traveller” Caspar David Friedrich, take your time to explore the region for a few days. Tours are offered, for example, by the Molière artdesign studio in Lohmen.

Booking offer: German romanticism break in Saxon Switzerland

© TMGS / Czech Vibes

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.

Booking offer: German romanticism break in the Zittau Mountains

Leipzig and Chemnitz

Art collections today

Caspar David Friedrich's paintings with motifs of Saxony are represented in art collections worldwide. In addition to Dresden, where the Saxon rulers collected art, there are, of course, also collections in Leipzig and Chemnitz. In these cities, it was the bourgeoisie that created important art collections.
Painting of people looking at sailboats from the shore by Caspar David Friedrich© Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig


For a long time, Leipzig was the world’s most important trading centre and hence, a very prosperous city. Merchants, bankers and industrialists created the foundation for the Museum of Fine Arts, which displays three works by Caspar David Friedrich, including the famous painting "Stages of Life” (Lebensstufen), which was painted in 1835, five years before his death.
Painting of a sailboat by Caspar David Friedrich© Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz / Jürgen Seidel


At Chemnitz Art Collections, visitors can see the "Sailing Ship” (Segelschiff), which the artist painted when he was about 40 years old, shortly before his marriage to Caroline Bommer, who was 19 years younger and with whom he had three children rather late in life . His grandson Harald, who was born in Dresden, was the last male descendant and a landscape painter himself. He was appointed professor of painting, an honour that was unfortunately denied to his grandfather.

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