Obelisk Art History

The wanderer above the sea of fog

Caspar David Friedrich, 1818
The wanderer above the sea of fog, Caspar David Friedrich
The wanderer above the sea of fog, zoomed in
98 cmThe wanderer above the sea of fog scale comparison74 cm
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The wanderer above the sea of fog is a Romantic Oil on Canvas Painting created by Caspar David Friedrich in 1818. It lives at the Kunsthalle Hamburg in Germany. The image is in the Public Domain, and tagged Seascapes. Download

Where is the Wanderer?

Friedrich described his approach to landscape painting saying “The artist should paint not only what he has in front of him but also what he sees inside himself.” Friedrich brought this practice to the Wanderer, splicing together a variety of landscapes from the Elbe Sandstone Mountains in Saxony, that he'd previously sketched in person. The distant mountain peak to the left of the figure resembles either the Kaltenberg peak in Austria or the Růžovský vrch, the Rosenberg mountain. Below the mountain a fingered rock craig looks like the million-year-old Bastei rock formation. The strange, vertical pillar in the far distance to the right of the figure is based on the Zirkelstein, a table hill topped by a 130ft tall sandstone rock on the border between Switzerland and the Czech Republic. Below the Zirkelstein is the Gamrig, a rock formation that overlooks the village of Waltersdorf. Even the rocks the titular wanderer stands on was pulled from nature. The boulder’s dramatic silhouette inspired by the jagged sandstones atop the Kaiserkrone, or “imperial crown” another table hill near the Zirkelstein.

Reed Enger, "The wanderer above the sea of fog," in Obelisk Art History, Published May 11, 2016; last modified November 06, 2022, http://arthistoryproject.com/artists/caspar-david-friedrich/the-wanderer-above-the-sea-of-fog/.

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Caspar David Friedrich and the Subject of Landscape, Recommended Reading

There are lot of books on Caspar David Friedrich, but Harvard's Joseph Leo Koerner goes deep, weaving the artist and his work into the tapestry of 19th century romanticism

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