Caspar David Friedrich in the Hamburger Kunsthalle, 7. October till 28. January

Caspar David Friedrich. Inventing Romanticism

7 October 2006 – 28 January 2007

Romanticism

Today everyone is again talking about Romanticism - in art and literature, in advertising and entertainment. This seems only logical as the increasing individualism and full aestheticisation of our world are both rooted in Romanticism. It is thus all the more important now to recall the origins of Romanticism and the initial ideas of the early Romantics. In a demystified reality, they clung to questions concerning unity, integrity and the meaning of life and created a world to counter the uniformity and normality of the emerging middle-class life. Their contrasting world is just as attractive today.

The Rediscovery of C. D. Friedrich in the early 20th century

Caspar David Friedrich was rediscovered in the early 20th century and is today regarded as the most prominent painter of German Romanticism. In other European countries, in Russia and in America, his works have in the past few decades also received increasing attention. Friedrich is now noted internationally as one of the key artists of the 19th century. This was illustrated, inter alia, by the major Caspar David Friedrich exhibition at the Tate Gallery in London in 1972, the smaller ones at the Metropolitan Museum in New York in 1991 and 2002, and the 1992 exhibition at the Prado in Madrid. In Germany, our retrospective is the first after the two major exhibitions at Hamburg and Dresden in 1974 marking the bicentenary of Friedrich's birth.

Research into Friedrich

Since those two anniversary exhibitions at the latest, research into Friedrich has gained great momentum, though there have been highly controversial interpretations of his work. Two lines have emerged in particular: a religious and a political interpretation of his motifs. Unlike those approaches focusing at times one-sidedly on a symbolic interpretation, the Essen exhibition tries above all to emphasise the artistic significance of his oeuvre, i.e. his efforts aimed at "inventing Romanticism". This initially concerns the determination of motifs for Friedrich's artistic work - the fiction of his views of nature combining detailed realism and abstract structure. Furthermore, the title of the exhibition refers to the fundamental transformation brought about by Romanticism in art and in ways of thinking and feeling in the age of the middle classes. To counter the 20th century's widespread association of Romanticism with the emotional and inaccurate, the exhibition intends to foster a heightened awareness of the precision and structuring of Friedrich's works as well as the deliberate calculation of their impact. For this purpose, a small selection of works by contemporary artists is to show in a kind of epilogue that Friedrich is just as relevant as ever.

Exhibits

The exhibition is arranged according to themes. 7 sections present Friedrich's work in its entire diversity: the classical motifs of Romantic painting are featured, as are the artist's specific pictorial devices for evoking Romantic moods and feelings. A sensationally large number of masterpieces will be on display - about 70 oil paintings from more than 50 museums and private collections. Fom a total of 250 drawings, sepias and water colours will be the half presented in Essen and Hamburg. A visit to the exhibition in Hamburg will be worthwhile anyway.

The staging of the exhibition and the extraordinary quality of the exhibits are due to fortuitous circumstances prompting the four major Friedrich collections in Berlin, Dresden, St. Petersburg and Hamburg (as second station) to make their main works available for the exhibition. In addition, Chalk Cliffs on Rügen, probably Friedrich's most famous painting, is coming to Essen from the Museum Oskar Reinhart am Stadtgarten in Winterthur, Switzerland. Such an opportunity will not recur in the foreseeable future. Thanks to the generosity of the five collections, the exhibition has the chance of becoming one of the most important ever devoted to this artist.


 

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Moonrise at the Sea, 1822
Moonrise at the Sea, 1822 Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz; Photo: Jörg P. Anders, Berlin

The Wanderer Above a Sea of Mist, around 1818
The Wanderer Above a Sea of Mist, around 1818
© Hamburger Kunsthalle / bpk; Photo: Elke Walford

Morningfog in the Mountains, 1808
Morningfog in the Mountains, 1808
Museum Schloß Heidecksburg, Rudolstadt
© Museum Schloß Heidecksburg, Rudolstadt

On the Sailingboat
On the Sailingboat, 1818
© Staatliche Eremitage,
St. Petersburg

 

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