Monday, September 5, 2011

Seeking the Sublime

Detail of Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon (1830-35) by Caspar David Friedrich

I always have a tough time listing my favorite anything, from book to movie to song. This is also true in choosing my favorite painters. However, I'm certain the Caspar David Friedrich consistently makes the top five. Friedrich was born on this date in 1774, so let's take the opportunity to appreciate his unique genius.

I feel that his style is the definitive look to Romanticism, especially as regards contemplation of the Sublime. Moreover, his muted colors and overwhelming spaces creates that sense of loneliness or insignificance that characterizes the later Gothic aesthetic. Additionally, his focus on death and transience works as a critique of materialism and the "heroic arrogance" of classicism and neo-classicism.

In Friedrich's world, the sublime grandeur of Nature reduces human accomplishment and material ambition to inconsequential ruins. It's a profoundly terrifying view that has influenced Western aesthetics up to the contemporary era.

Detail of Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818) by Caspar David Friedrich

So what can humanity do? Contemplate the awesome spiritual immensity of the Sublime.

Civilization and rationality are doomed to be crushed under the inevitable press of Nature.

The Sea of Ice (1823-24) by Caspar David Friedrich

Here is a fine vid showcasing some of Friedrich's works. And it is accompanied by Schubert. It's a Romantic two-in-one. Woo hoo!!!

And here's a vid discussing one of my favorite paintings at the Getty Center, Friedrich's A Walk at Dusk (1830-35).


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