National Gallery of Art - EXHIBITIONS
Spirit of an Age, Nineteenth-Century Paintings from the Nationalgalerie, Berlin

Romantic Landscape

Caspar David Friedrich, The Solitary Tree, 1822 Caspar David Friedrich stands at the heart of the German romantic landscape tradition. His works derive from minute observation of nature and are often based on drawings made on walking expeditions in the countryside. The transcription of nature, however, was never his sole aim. He looked, he said, "through the inner eye," and what he saw allowed him to invest his works with poetic feeling and transcendent significance. For Friedrich, landscape painting revealed the spirituality inherent in nature and reflected his Christian faith. The figures seen from the back that sometimes inhabit such paintings yearn for a world beyond (see Moonrise over the Sea, 1822).

Friedrich also shared the widespread German hope for freedom and employed motifs such as massive oak trees to signify the strength of the German people. His contemporary and one of the towering European geniuses of the age, the architect and painter Karl Friedrich Schinkel, also explored patriotic themes during the years of Napoleonic occupation. His panoramic landscape paintings abound with brilliant light effects, signifying high aspiration, and are often dominated by towering Gothic cathedrals. For Schinkel, Gothic architecture was German architecture and a potent symbol for his people.

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