The exaggerated terrains and symbolic landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) capture a moment in history when romantic thought was at its most powerful and sublime. Not only in the arts, but in the sciences too. Figures like Alexander von Humboldt and through him, Charles Darwin absorbed this sense of the sublime in nature. Nature was not just beautiful, but awe inspiring, somewhat terrible, but fascinating and grand.
Yet this romantic art is not a kind of pure realism that simple turns its glance on the natural world. Looking at his notes show how Friedrich constantly exaggerated features to make his landscapes “say” something. The above picture “Cloister Graveyard in the Snow” just looks like a ruin at first, but it was painted to express the division of society and the church caused by the protestant reformation. The two trees pointing away from each other, graves on either side, the ruined cloister directly between them. These images are far from the politically neutral. They are rich and challenging, and yet you sometimes get the feeling that you could see them just by going for a walk in the woods, which is another strength, not soon forgotten.
For More Information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caspar_David_Friedrich
Koerner, Joseph Leo. 1998. Caspar David Friedrich and the Subject of Landscape. New Haven: Yale University Press.