In the light of Caspar David Friedrich

Early plein-air painting in Denmark and North Germany

This exhibition, organized in collaboration with the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa and the Thorvaldsens Museum in Copenhagen, draws attention to a painterly form which took a fresh look at nature fifty years before Impressionism. Artists such as Johan Christian Dahl from Norway, Christen Købke from Copenhagen, Karl Blechen from Berlin or Friedrich Wasmann from Hamburg took their paints and brushes out into nature and painted directly from the subject. Their aim was to capture reality in the light of nature to create a straightforward, clear image in as precise a manner as possible. They painted what they saw, even though what was seemingly plain or intangible.

In preparing this exhibition we have chosen a wider definition of plein-air painting and included Pomeranian artist Caspar David Friedrich, who was in fact a studio painter, but whose works are strongly characterized by the experience of natural light and his love of precise detail. A painting by Schinkel is also featured. The predominant figures will be the influential teacher Christopher Eckersberg, Christen Købke and Eduard Gaertner, and also Christian Dahl, who like Friedrich, had settled in Dresden. The major lenders to the exhibition are the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen, the Nationalgalerie Berlin, the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg and the Hamburg Kunsthalle. The Nationalgalerie Oslo and the Hermitage in St. Petersburg have also made works available, and Eduard Gaertner’s Berlin panorama is kindly being lent by Schloss Peterhof in Russia.

The catalogue contains illustrations and descriptions of all 107 paintings, as well as essays by Helmut Börsch-Supan and the three curators responsible for the exhibition: Catherine Johnston (Ottawa), Helmut R. Leppien (Hamburg) and Kaspar Monrad (Copenhagen).