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Caspar David Friedrich

Written by Brett Nelson

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Posted on October 01 2019

Casper David Friedrich contributed widely to the world of arts in a unique way. A German by birth, his childhood was tough as he never really recovered from the deaths of his mother and siblings in his early life. He passed on this tragedy into his artworks.
The events in his life molded him to become the emotional artist that he was and connected him to his life works. He was quite successful during his early to his mid-early career but unfortunately died in poverty.
Early life
Casper David Friedrich was born in Greifswald, Swedish Pomerania on the Baltic coast of Germany on the 5th of September in 1774 by parents Adolf Gottlieb Friedrich and Sophie Dorothea Bechly. He was the sixth child in a family of ten. This place of birth provided the subject matter for many of his landscape paintings in the future. His mother’s death occurred just a year after the death of Elizabeth, his sister.
At the age of 13, while ice skating with his brother Johann Christoffer, he fell into the icy waters. His brother dove in and rescued him, but drowned in the process. He was plagued with a lot of guilt for his brother’s death and the experience haunted him for the rest of his life. His attempted suicides and frequent bouts of depression were linked to this very event of his life.
In 1790, Casper David Friedrich started studying art officially at the University of Greifswald with Johann Gottfried Quistorp. Through Quistorp, David Friedrich met Ludwig Gotthard Kosegarten. Kosegarten was a theologian who believed that nature was a revelation of God. This belief was passed onto David Friedrich. It remained with him for the rest of his life and was the inspiration behind many of his artworks. In 1974, he got accepted to the Academy of Copenhagen where he drew from life and made antique sculptures.
When he was 24, he moved permanently to Dresden. Here he experimented a lot using woodcuts, etchings, and printmaking's but bent towards inks and watercolors.
Middle Years
In 1805, David Friedrich took part in the Weimar completion and won a prize. This gained him a lot of recognition and reputation in the art world. He later went on to produce his first major work; a painting that depicted the crucifixion of Christ, but not entirely so. The cross was not the major element focused on, in fact, it was the least, with the figure of Christ only shown at a distance. The painting was dominated by nature with the trees, mountains, and sun rays commanding all the attention. The painting caused a huge controversy and outraged a lot of critics. It was coldly received by the public. David Friedrich was averse towards Napoleon and this was depicted in his anti-French paintings.
Casper David Friedrich tied the knots with Caroline Bommer in 1818, and they had three children.
Advanced Years
The last few years of Friedrich's life were not easy for him. With the replacement of the ideals of Romanticism, his reputation declined as well as his fame. He was left without patrons and soon became poor. To worsen situations he developed a stroke in 1835 that reduced his ability to paint effectively.
Casper David Friedrich faced death on the 7th of May, 1840. He was 66 at the time.

View Caspar David Friedrich Gallery