Research/Enquiry-The figure and Landscape in Other Creative Practices: Casper David Friedrich

19th Century German painter Casper David Friedrich was an artist who was well known for his captivating works in the romantic art movement.  Following his studies at the Copenhagen Academy, Friedrich practiced with various art materials including etching and sculpture before developing his practice in oil paint in which his first painting ‘Landscape with Temple Ruins’ brought him into a new artistic phase.  Friedrich continued this style of work throughout his career in mostly using vast landscapes and ruins with the occasional figure as a primal setting within his work.

Friedrich shows us landscape as if it were a fantasy as he establishes soft atmospheres throughout all of his works.  The way he uses light and colour in his paintings is one aspect that strongly defines his style of painting as in various works he creates soft glows of light (usually as a sunset or dusk setting) that almost suggests a timid presence in revealing the scene.  His paintings depicting ruins and graveyards may refer to Friedrich’s dark experiences from childhood and this brings a haunting element in the atmospheres of his work.  One of Friedrich’s most famous works ‘Abbey In The Oakwood’ (1809-1810) possesses a dark, lonely ambience that suggests a sense of loss as it refers to a place associating with death.

Another piece ‘Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog’ (1818) is one painting which I find particularly compelling.  The scene is set within a misty mountain environment in which we see a lone figure standing on the peak of a cliff as he looks out across the landscape.  This painting beautifully orchestrates the emotional element as the viewer is placed in the same position  as the individual; we see what the individual sees.  The man in the painting is anonymous to the audience, however Friedrich still brings across a connection as we are invited to witness a magnificent landscape in a way that shares the experience of the individual in the image.  I admire the simplistic construction of this painting and it reminds me of a recent project in which the individual’s identity is hidden form us.  Reflecting on this painting and my own recent practice conveying a similar intention, I believe that identity can definitely change the perception of an image.  When we see the individual’s face, there is a sense of honesty however when this ‘face’ is taken away, the audience is even more curious about the character and this is an aspect that I find intriguing.

Friedrich does not feature individuals in all of his paintings, however he still materialises character from the place itself in an admirable way that gives us an incentive to explore and enjoy the landscape environment.  I admire how Friedrich presents landscapes in a way that is realistic but also bringing forth surreal elements.  Upon observation of paintings featuring discreet figures, Friedrich displays some indication of story, however these remain very ambiguous as mostly, these figures are not completely revealed to us.  In conclusion, Friedrich presents expressive concepts within his paintings that is both subtle and powerful.  This is influential towards my own practice as Friedrich influences the concept of observing landscape in a more traditional way where we can appreciate its beauty and geographical features as well as understanding backstory of the place.


Casper David Copyright (2015) Casper David Friedrich [Online] Available from; (Accessed 10/12/2015)

Artble (2015) Casper David Friedrich Biography [Online] Available from: (Accessed 10/12/2015)


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