Caspar David Friedrich

Art for a New Age

Press information

The Hamburger Kunsthalle will mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of Caspar David Friedrich (1774 Greifswald–1840 Dresden) with a celebratory exhibition. CASPAR DAVID FRIEDRICH. Art for a New age, to run from 15 December 2023 until 1 April 2024, will be the biggest review of work by the exceptional Romantic painter for many years. It centres on a themed retrospective with more than 60 paintings, among them many major iconic works, and about 100 drawings. Also featured are selected works by Friedrich’s colleagues, notably Carl Blechen, Carl Gustav Carus, Johan Christian Dahl, August Heinrich and Georg Friedrich Kersting. The relationship between people and nature, which found novel expression in Friedrich’s landscapes, is a key thematic strand. His treatment of this subject was an essential factor, during the first third of the 19th century, towards transforming landscape painting into »art for a new age«. The deep fascination unleashed by these works has been enduring and they lend themselves with great facility to issues of now-time, as demonstrated by a second, separate section of the exhibition that brings together responses to Friedrich in contemporary art. In contributions ranging from video and photography to installations, some 20 artists working across a variety of genres and media, both here in Germany and abroad, set out to explore the Romantic era, its attitude to nature, and the art of Caspar David Friedrich. The participants include Elina Brotherus, Julian Charrière, David Claerbout, Olafur Eliasson, Alex Grein, Hiroyuki Masuyama, Mariele Neudecker, Ulrike Rosenbach, Susan Schuppli, Santeri Tuori and Kehinde Wiley.

Superb and extremely rare loans of paintings by Friedrich, among them Chalk Cliffs on Rügen (1818), The Monk by the Sea (1808–10) and Two Men Contem-plating the Moon (1819/20), will be on show alongside works from the holdings of the Hamburger Kunsthalle such as Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (c.1817) and The Sea of Ice (1823/24). These works are Romantic icons.

Friedrich applied his painterly skills to probing the ability of a landscape to express questions of his time, to tapping the potential associated with representations of nature and to finding ways to communicate with the viewer. His output of drawings was likewise prolific and the exhibition devotes special attention to these. Spending time in a natural outdoor environment in order to produce art was a distinctive characteristic of Romantic practice and essential to Friedrich’s œuvre.

The unique atmosphere that speaks to us from Friedrich’s works with their powerful motifs and compositions has inspired many artists to enter into a dialogue with their Romantic colleague, especially given the current relevance of ecological issues. The tension between the gradual destruction of the environment and a yearning for »untouched nature« has been an unbroken force from the Romantic age down to our own times. In Friedrich’s day, however, the Romantic perception of nature carried national connotations, whereas today’s artists approach the natural world and climate change from a global perspective. In this spirit, the exhibition also embraces recent work devoted to the darker sides and absences in Romantic art and later reactions to it. Colonialism and its impact on people and natural resources are as much a theme here as the Western, hegemonial concept of nature and its expressions in art. The exhibits include imposing adaptations of Friedrich by the American artist Kehinde Wiley (*1977), which reflect critically on an art canon informed by white Western input.

The exhibition at the Hamburger Kunsthalle is the prelude to the Caspar David Friedrich Festival. To celebrate the anniversary year, the Alte Nationalgalerie/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden will each follow suit with shows on their own themes. The three museums boast the world’s biggest collections of works by Friedrich. A reciprocal flow of substantial loans will permit unprecedented displays on different aspects of his oeuvre. These exhibitions to mark the 250th anniversary of Caspar David Friedrich’s birth enjoy the patronage of Germany’s president Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

To complement the Festival, the Hamburger Kunsthalle has teamed up with the Alte Nationalgalerie/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden to set up a Web portal with curated multi-media content around Friedrich’s art as part of a project called Datenraum Kultur. This is one of several flagship projects set up under the Federal government’s Digital Strategy to facilitate digital networking between cultural establishments and to promote the independent exchange of arts-related data. Its development has been entrusted to the Deutsche Akademie der Technikwissenschaften e.V. (acatech), the Ministry of Culture and Media in the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology (FIT).

The exhibition has been organised in partnership with: Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena

Principal exhibition sponsors: Hapag-Lloyd, Hapag-Lloyd Stiftung

Exhibition sponsor: Else Schnabel

The project Datenraum Kultur is funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.

Haspa-Galerie: The Hamburger Sparkasse has been committed for many years to supporting the Hamburger Kunsthalle. As a token of gratitude for this generosity, the second upper level of the Gallery for Contemporary Art, where the contemporary responses to Friedrich will be on show, has been named the »Haspa-Galerie«.

Cultural partners: NDR Kultur, Ministry of Culture and Media in the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg

Media partner: Hamburger Abendblatt