Caspar David Friedrich quotes

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Caspar David Friedrich

Birthdate: 5. September 1774
Date of death: 7. May 1840

Caspar David Friedrich was a 19th-century German Romantic landscape painter, generally considered the most important German artist of his generation. He is best known for his mid-period allegorical landscapes which typically feature contemplative figures silhouetted against night skies, morning mists, barren trees or Gothic ruins. His primary interest was the contemplation of nature, and his often symbolic and anti-classical work seeks to convey a subjective, emotional response to the natural world. Friedrich's paintings characteristically set a human presence in diminished perspective amid expansive landscapes, reducing the figures to a scale that, according to the art historian Christopher John Murray, directs "the viewer's gaze towards their metaphysical dimension".Friedrich was born in the town of Greifswald on the Baltic Sea in what was at the time Swedish Pomerania. He studied in Copenhagen until 1798, before settling in Dresden. He came of age during a period when, across Europe, a growing disillusionment with materialistic society was giving rise to a new appreciation of spirituality. This shift in ideals was often expressed through a reevaluation of the natural world, as artists such as Friedrich, J. M. W. Turner and John Constable sought to depict nature as a "divine creation, to be set against the artifice of human civilization".Friedrich's work brought him renown early in his career, and contemporaries such as the French sculptor David d'Angers spoke of him as a man who had discovered "the tragedy of landscape". Nevertheless, his work fell from favour during his later years, and he died in obscurity. As Germany moved towards modernisation in the late 19th century, a new sense of urgency characterised its art, and Friedrich's contemplative depictions of stillness came to be seen as the products of a bygone age. The early 20th century brought a renewed appreciation of his work, beginning in 1906 with an exhibition of thirty-two of his paintings in Berlin. By the 1920s his paintings had been discovered by the Expressionists, and in the 1930s and early 1940s Surrealists and Existentialists frequently drew ideas from his work. The rise of Nazism in the early 1930s again saw a resurgence in Friedrich's popularity, but this was followed by a sharp decline as his paintings were, by association with the Nazi movement, interpreted as having a nationalistic aspect. It was not until the late 1970s that Friedrich regained his reputation as an icon of the German Romantic movement and a painter of international importance.

Quotes Caspar David Friedrich

„If a painting has a soulful effect on the viewer, if it puts his mind into a soulful mood, then it has fulfilled the first requirement of a work of art. However bad it might be in drawing, color, handling, etc.“

—  Caspar David Friedrich

Quote of Friedrich's letter 8 Feb. 1809, to 'Akademiedirektor Schulz'; as cited by Helmut Bôrsch-Supan and Karl Wilhelm Jàhnig in Caspar David Friedrich: Gemâlde, Druckgraphik und bildmassige Zeichnungen (Munich: Prestel, 1973), 182-83, esp. 183; translation, David Britt - note 117 http://d2aohiyo3d3idm.cloudfront.net/publications/virtuallibrary/0892366745.pdf
1794 - 1840

„The beauty, the spirit of Germany, its sun, moon, stars, rocks, seas and rivers can never be expressed this way..“

—  Caspar David Friedrich

Quote of Friedrich, shortly after his return in 1798; as quoted in C. D. Friedrich by H.W. Grohn; Kindlers Malerei Lexicon, Zurich, 1965, II p. 46; as cited & transl. by Linda Siegel in Caspar David Friedrich and the Age of German Romanticism, Boston Branden Press Publishers, 1978, p. 17
Friedrich's quote is referring to the typical landscape and atmosphere of Denmark, he intensively experienced for four years. In 1798 Friedrich left Copenhagen and returned to Germany, to Dresden
1794 - 1840

„When a landscape is enveloped in mist it appears larger, more majestic, and increases the power of imagination... The eye and the imagination are on the whole more attracted.“

—  Caspar David Friedrich

Friedrich's remark to Carl Gustac Carus, as cited by Sigrid Hinz, Caspar David Friedrich in Briefen und Bekenntnissen; Henschelverlag Kunst und Gesellchaft, Berlin ,1968 p. 239; translated and quoted in Religious Symbolism in Caspar David Friedrich, by Colin J. Bailey https://www.escholar.manchester.ac.uk/api/datastream?publicationPid=uk-ac-man-scw:1m2225&datastreamId=POST-PEER-REVIEW-PUBLISHERS-DOCUMENT.PDF, paper; Oct. 1988 - Edinburgh College of Art, p. 19
undated

„Man should not be held as an absolute standard for mankind, but the Godly, the infinite is his goal... Follow without hesitation the voice of your inner self; for it is the Godly in us and leads us not to astray..“

—  Caspar David Friedrich

Quote from: Caspar David Friedrich, by Irma Emmerich; Herman Böhlaus, Weimar, 1964, p. 11; as cited & transl. by Linda Siegel in Caspar David Friedrich and the Age of German Romanticism, Boston Branden Press Publishers, 1978, p. 4
undated

„The artist should not only paint what he sees before him, but also what he sees in himself. If, however, he sees nothing within him, then he should also refrain from painting what he sees before him.“

—  Caspar David Friedrich

Quote from "The Awe-Struck Witness" in TIME magazine (28 October 1974) http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,908926-1,00.html and in "On the Brink: The Artist and the Seas" by Eldon N. Van Liere in Poetics of the Elements in the Human Condition: The Sea (1985) ed. Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka
Variant translations:
The artist should not only paint what he sees before him, but also what he sees within him. If, however, he sees nothing within him, then he should also omit to paint that which he sees before him.
As quoted in German Romantic Painting (1994) by William Vaughan, p. 68
undated
Context: The artist should not only paint what he sees before him, but also what he sees in himself. If, however, he sees nothing within him, then he should also refrain from painting what he sees before him. Otherwise his pictures will be like those folding screens behind which one expects to find only the sick or the dead.

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„The pure, frank sentiments we hold in our hearts are the only truthful sources of art.“

—  Caspar David Friedrich

Quote in 'Culture: Caspar D. Friedrich and the Wasteland', by Gjermund E. Jansen in Bits of News (3 March 2005) http://www.bitsofnews.com/content/view/154/42/
Variant translation: The heart is the only true source of art, the language of a pure, child-like soul. Any creation not sprung from this origin can only be artifice. Every true work of art is conceived in a hallowed hour and born in a happy one, from an impulse in the artist's heart, often without his knowledge. (as quoted in the article 'Caspar David Friedrich's Medieval Burials', Karl Whittington - http://www.19thc-artworldwide.org/spring12/whittington-on-caspar-david-friedrichs-medieval-burials)
undated
Context: The pure, frank sentiments we hold in our hearts are the only truthful sources of art. A painting which does not take its inspiration from the heart is nothing more than futile juggling. All authentic art is conceived at a sacred moment and nourished in a blessed hour; an inner impulse creates it, often without the artist being aware of it.

„Close your bodily eye, so that you may see your picture first with the spiritual eye.“

—  Caspar David Friedrich

Variant translation: Close your bodily eye, that you may see your picture first with the eye of the spirit. Then bring to light what you have seen in the darkness, that its effect may work back, from without to within.
Quoted in The Romantic Imagination: Literature and Art in England and Germany (1996) by Fredrick Berwick and Jürgn Klein, and in "Culture: Caspar D. Friedrich and the Wasteland" by Gjermund E. Jansen in Bits of News (3 March 2005) http://www.bitsofnews.com/content/view/154/42/
undated
Context: Close your bodily eye, so that you may see your picture first with the spiritual eye. Then bring to the light of day that which you have seen in the darkness so that it may react upon others from the outside inwards. A picture must not be invented but felt. Observe the form exactly, both the smallest and the large and do not separate the small from the large, but rather the trivial from the important.

„I must stay alone and know that I am alone to contemplate and feel nature in full; I have to surrender myself to what encircles me, I have to merge with my clouds and rocks in order to be what I am. Solitude is indispensible for my dialogue with nature.“

—  Caspar David Friedrich

Quote of Friedrich, 1821; as cited in Authenticity and Fiction in the Russian Literary Journey, 1790-1840 (2000) by Andreas Schönle, p. 108, from memoirs of Vasily Zhukovsky
Variant translation: I have to stay alone in order to fully contemplate and feel nature.
This answer of Friedrich is recorded by Vasily Zhukovsky who asked the painter in 1821 to travel together to Switzerland
1794 - 1840

„The divine is everywhere, even in a grain of sand“

—  Caspar David Friedrich

Quote of Friedrich on his painting Swans in the Rushes (c. 1820), as cited in "Absent Presences in Liminal Places: Murnau's Nosferatu and the Otherworld of Stoker's Dracula" by Saviour Catania in Literature Film Quarterly (2004) http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3768/is_200401/ai_n9377557/print
1794 - 1840
Context: The divine is everywhere, even in a grain of sand; there I represented it in the reeds.

„All authentic art is conceived at a sacred moment and nourished in a blessed hour; an inner impulse creates it, often without the artist being aware of it.“

—  Caspar David Friedrich

Quote in 'Culture: Caspar D. Friedrich and the Wasteland', by Gjermund E. Jansen in Bits of News (3 March 2005) http://www.bitsofnews.com/content/view/154/42/
Variant translation: The heart is the only true source of art, the language of a pure, child-like soul. Any creation not sprung from this origin can only be artifice. Every true work of art is conceived in a hallowed hour and born in a happy one, from an impulse in the artist's heart, often without his knowledge. (as quoted in the article 'Caspar David Friedrich's Medieval Burials', Karl Whittington - http://www.19thc-artworldwide.org/spring12/whittington-on-caspar-david-friedrichs-medieval-burials)
undated
Context: The pure, frank sentiments we hold in our hearts are the only truthful sources of art. A painting which does not take its inspiration from the heart is nothing more than futile juggling. All authentic art is conceived at a sacred moment and nourished in a blessed hour; an inner impulse creates it, often without the artist being aware of it.

„A picture must not be invented but felt. Observe the form exactly, both the smallest and the large and do not separate the small from the large, but rather the trivial from the important.“

—  Caspar David Friedrich

Variant translation: Close your bodily eye, that you may see your picture first with the eye of the spirit. Then bring to light what you have seen in the darkness, that its effect may work back, from without to within.
Quoted in The Romantic Imagination: Literature and Art in England and Germany (1996) by Fredrick Berwick and Jürgn Klein, and in "Culture: Caspar D. Friedrich and the Wasteland" by Gjermund E. Jansen in Bits of News (3 March 2005) http://www.bitsofnews.com/content/view/154/42/
undated
Context: Close your bodily eye, so that you may see your picture first with the spiritual eye. Then bring to the light of day that which you have seen in the darkness so that it may react upon others from the outside inwards. A picture must not be invented but felt. Observe the form exactly, both the smallest and the large and do not separate the small from the large, but rather the trivial from the important.

„Why, the question is often asked of me
Do you choose as subjects for painting
So often death, perishing and the grave?
In order to one day live eternally
One must often submit oneself to death.“

—  Caspar David Friedrich

in original language - German: Warum, die Frag' ist oft zu mir ergangen / Wählst du zum Gegenstand der Malerei / So oft den Tod, Vergänglichkeit und Grab? / Um ewig einst zu leben / Muss man sich oft dem Tod ergeben.
Quote c. 1812; from Caspar David Friedrich, William Vaughn; London: Tate Gallery, 1972, p. 16–17
1794 - 1840

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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