Caspar David Friedrich is known as one of the most influential and unique German artists of Romanticism. He was born on September 1774, had nine other siblings, and a soap boiler and candle-maker father called Adolf Gottlieb Friedrich. Some sources state the Friedrich family struggled with poverty. Being that true or not, the young soon-to-be artist and his father endured many tragic loses in their family. At seven years old, he lost his mother, Sophie Dorothea Bechly, and one of his sisters passed away only a year later. In 1787, Friedrich saw his brother drown after falling in a frozen pond, possibly the worst tragedy of his life. Just four years later, another sister died after becoming terribly ill. Art historians link the disasters Friedrich went through to the feeling of grief, sorrow, and loneliness present in his artwork throughout his life.
In 1790, he officially began studying art at the University of Greifswald, his hometown. Friedrich was encouraged to draw from life, and outdoors, he also met Ludwig Gotthard Kosegarten through his teacher, which influenced him to ponder about the spirituality in his art. His teachers also showed works of other landscape artists, like Adam Elsheimer, who mixed religious subjects with landscape paintings. Although art was his major, Friedrich also studied aesthetics under Thomas Thorild, a Swedish professor. The artist continued to invest in his education and left for the Academy of Copenhagen four years later.
Although Friedrich’s reputation as an artist was established as an oil painter, he experimented with many other media, like printmaking, mostly metal etching, and woodcuts. He also worked with watercolor, ink, and sepia painting, especially during the period in which he was settled in Dresden, by the end of the 1700s. Even when experimenting with different material, the artist’s primary theme became the same, as he would prefer to portray the beautiful landscapes he encountered. Friedrich became more and more discontent with the consumerism and value that people gave to the material aspects of life. Like other the landscape artists which he admired, like J. M. W. Turner and John Constable, he was lead to a spiritual state of mind in which the concept of nature is a divine creation.
It was only in 1805, at the age of 31, that Friedrich began to receive the recognition he deserved, because of the praise he got after winning the Weimar competition with two sepia paintings. The Romanticist became a member of the prestigious Berlin Academy in 1810 and married Caroline Bommer eight years later. The couple had three children together. Even though his contribution to German art was significant, he died in obscurity in the year 1840 in Dresden, Germany. It was only by the 1920s that his art was rediscovered by the modern painters of the Expressionist movement, who deeply appreciated his work, along with the Surrealists in the 1930s. Unfortunately for Friedrich, his paintings began to be associated with the Nazi movement because of its sense of nationalism, but he was able to regain his reputation as one of the greatest German painters by the late 1970s.