The paper "The Image of Caspar David Friedrich" is a wonderful example of an assignment on visual arts and film studies.
The genre of the painting? How highly ranked is this genre in the classical/traditional system of art and in the Romantic system of art?
Friedrich’s oil painting evokes a feeling of loneliness and darkness. Hence, I believe that the genre of the painting is that of death. When it comes to ranking the hierarchy of genres there are several things to remember first. During the 18th century, the high-ranking art genre were artworks based on the effort of the artists to render the art in a way that showed universal essence and not merely by copying other artworks. Hence, an artist’s painting showing idealism would be privileged over a painting that showed realism (Rosen 61).
Friedrich’s painting shows it is more of a deaths cape since there is a building in ruins which seems like a church, based on its windows and size. The painting would be ranked as the highest in its form in the classical or traditional system of art. However, in the romantic system of art, it would be of the lowest genres. A radical aspect of early romanticism was connected to the fact that it attempted to replace historical paintings with landscapes (Rosen 51). In the painting, it is clear that the painter has incorporated religious figures into a landscape.
Q. 2.Main subject of this painting and what elements or figures do you see? Which ones indicate the human presence? Which ones are anthropomorphic? Describe what the artist did to create the anthropomorphic effect.
It is a bit hard to see the background, but a closer look shows a few men walking towards the ruins of the church. The five religious men, who are monks, also seem to be carrying something. It is a graveyard, based on the few graves with crosses on them. Given that it is a graveyard, one assumes that they may be carrying coffins or crosses. The building seems to be made using a gothic style, which in the 18th century was commonly used for building churches.
The painter has also incorporated other structures in the painting such as the great oak trees growing next to the church ruins. The connection between the trees and the ruins of the building suggests a spiritual presence in nature and perhaps that of the society. This is what gives viewers an anthropomorphic effect because of the connection between the tall oak trees and the tall building to show that God is up there and not below. As noted by Rosen in his article, on Caspar Friedrich the painting shows a religious connection in relation to heaven and earth (56) The lower third part of the painting lies in darkness but the highest pat with leafless oak trees is lit by a sun that is probably setting. The graves on the ground and the five men walking also indicate a human presence in the area.
Q.3. Charles Rosen describes the ambition of Romantic art as the creation of natural symbols independent of conventions. What elements might Friedrich have intended as symbolic in this painting? How do you know?
Elements such as the church in ruins, the oak trees, the monks and the graveyard are all symbolic. It allows the viewers to question themselves and ask if there is anything sacred since it seems like everything has its end. For example, in the painting, the oak trees are leafless, meaning they are dying. The oak trees have also taken over the church which in ruins. The graveyards also accentuate that the monks who represent human beings also fall.