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

Caspar David Friedrich – Biography

Caspar David Friedrich is born in Greifswald on September 5th as the sixth of ten children of the soap boiler Adolf Gottlieb Friedrich and his wife Sophie Dorothea, who dies seven years later.

His brother Johann Christoffer dies trying to save Caspar David from drowning while the two are ice-skating, for which Caspar David suffered a lifelong sense of guilt.

Takes lessons with Johann Gottfried Quistorp, a drawing teacher at the university of Greifswald, who arranges for him to enrol at the Copenhagen Academy, which is considered the most progressive academy of art in Europe at the time. Attends the free-hand drawing class until 1796, then the plaster and model class. His teachers are the best Danish painters at the time: Christian August Lorentzen, the landscape painter, Jens Juel, the portrait and landscape painter, and Nicolai Abildgaard, the history painter. However, the Academy does not teach painting, which is why there are no oil paintings by him until 1797.

Moves to Dresden making his living by painting brochures, influenced by the Dresden painters Johann Christian Klengel and Adrian Zingg.

His works are shown for the first time at the Dresden Academy’s annual exhibition.

Travels to Neubrandenburg in March/April, staying in Greifswald throughout the month of May. Goes on his first walks around Rügen in June/August. He returns to Rügen one year later, and again in 1806 and 1818. Makes his first landscape drawings, which announce his very personal drawing style. These drawings later find their way into his paintings. Meets Philipp Otto Runge.

Moves into summer apartment in Loschwitz near Dresden. Friedrich presents sepia drawings at the Academy's exhibition. First walking tour through Northern Bohemia. 1805 Without sticking to the task set by Goethe and Heinrich Meyer, Friedrich wins half the prize of the Weimar Art Society for two sepia drawings submitted. Goethe later adopted a critical attitude towards him.

Travels to Neubrandenburg in May and to Greifswald in June. In autumn, he meets the naturalist and philosopher Gotthilf Heinrich Schubert in Dresden.

Walking tour through Northern Bohemia in August/September. Takes up oil painting: View of the Elbe Valley
and others.1808 Spends Christmas in his apartment. Presents his Tetschen Altar. The public criticism by the chamberlain Basilius von Ramdohr lands him in the headlines. There erupts what became later known as the ‘Ramdohr dispute’, triggering a fundamental debate about Romantic art. Some of his friends including the painter Gerhard von Kügelgen defend the work. Makes friends with Heinrich von Kleist and the painter Georg Friedrich Kersting.

Commutes between Greifswald and Neubrandenburg in April/June. His father dies on November 9th.

Goes on excursion through the Giant Mountains together with Friedrich Kersting. Becomes foreign member of the Royal Academy of Art in Berlin. On September 18th, Goethe visits Friedrich in his studio. Meets Johanna Schopenhauer. In autumn, he presents his two paintings Monk at the Sea and Abbey in an Oak Forest (today at the Nationalgalerie Berlin) at a Berlin Academy exhibition. Both works are purchased by the Prussian Crown Prince. In response to Monk at the Sea, publishes his paper "Empfindungen von Friedrichs Seelandschaft" (“Perceptions of Friedrich's Seascapes”). Friedrich has reached the pinnacle of recognition as an artist. His economic and social situation improves significantly.

Walking tour through the Harz Mountains together with Gottlieb Christian Kühn, the sculptor, in June. Visits Goethe in Jena in July. Paints Morning in the Riesengebirge.

French occupation of Dresden. Friedrich retreats to the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. Regularly meets with Ernst Moritz Arndt in Dresden. Shares his hostility towards the occupiers. Graves of Dead Freiheitskrieger painted in 1812 is exemplary of this.

At the Patriotic Art Exhibition organised by the Russian governor to celebrate the liberation of Dresden, Friedrich’s paintings Hermannsgrab and Chasseur in the Forest are two of the main attractions.

Becomes member of the Royal Academy of Arts in Dresden with a fixed salary. Turns down an invitation to Rome by a fellow painter.

Meets the physician and painter Carl Gustav Carus who discusses Friedrich's works in his "Nine Letters on Landscape Painting".

On January 21st, he marries Caroline Bommer, who appears in many of his paintings with her back turned to the viewer. With his wife he travels to Greifswald, Wolgast, Stralsund and to the island of Rügen. In autumn, he meets the Norwegian landscape painter Johan Christian Dahl.

The Karlsbad Decrees are issued. Friedrich expresses his liberal convictions in some of his works by showing men wearing the banned traditional German costumes (Two Men Contemplating the Moon). Ulrich von Hutten's Grave, which he painted a few years later (1823/24), is a political avowal. Prince Christian Frederik of Denmark visits Friedrich in Dresden. On August 30th, his daughter Emma is born.

His friend Gerhard von Kügelgen is murdered. Kügelgen’s Grave. Friedrich settles in a house on the Elbe.
Visit by the Russian Grand Duke Nikolay Pavlovich, who later became Tsar Nicholas I.

Visit by Vasily Andreyevich Zhukovsky, Russian poet and state council member, who procures paintings on behalf of the Tsar and whose collection helps make Friedrich's work known also among artists in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Visit by the poet Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué. Moonrise over the Sea; The Lone Tree.

Dahl, a lifelong friend, rents an apartment in the same house as Friedrich on the Elbe. Daughter Agnes Adelheid is born.

Appointed professor of the Royal Dresden Art Academy, but without being put in charge of the vacant position of teacher of the landscape painting class. On December 23rd, his son is born whom he names after the Swedish King, Gustav Adolf. Falls ill. The Sea of Ice (the failed hope).

Severe health crisis continues. Cemetery at Dusk. The Watzmann is shown at the Dresden Academy. 1826 Spends some time on Rügen to recuperate on what is to be his last visit. At the first exhibition of the Hamburg Art Club he shows three of his works including The Sea of Ice.

Becomes a member of the newly founded Saxony Art Club. In May, he travels to the health resort of Teplitz (Bohemia).

Large Enclosure is shown at the Dresden Academy and purchased by the Saxony Art Club.

1830 Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia visits him in his studio.

Nine of his works are shown at the Third Art and Trade Exhibition in Königsberg. Yet his fame as an artist starts to wane with the dawning of Realism, a new epoch in art, which replaces Romanticism in painting.

On November 7th, Friedrich is visited by the French sculptor David d'Angers in Dresden: "Friedrich! The only landscape painter so far to succeed in stirring up all the forces of my soul, the painter who has created a new genre: the tragedy of the landscape". The Stages of Life show Friedrich as an old man from behind, together with members of his family of the two younger generations.

On June 26th, he suffers a stroke, leaving his right hand paralysed. In mid-August/late September, travels to the health resort of Teplitz, a trip financed by selling various paintings to the Russian Tsar. Friedrich can initially resume his work, but hardly in oil. He prefers water colours and the sepia technique.

Suffers second stroke which leaves him almost completely paralysed.

A few months before his death, Zhukovsky helps him sell several of his works to Russia. He dies on May 7th and is buried at the Trinitatis cemetery in Dresden-Johannstadt on May 10th.


::: print Page

Selfportrait, 1802

Selfportrait, about 1800
© Statens Museum for Kunst, Den kongelige Kobberstiksamling, Kopenhagen

Partner of Hamburger Kunsthalle eon Hanse - Partner of Hamburger Kunsthalle