oil on canvas, 90,5- 71 cm. - Winterthur, Oskar Reinhart Foundation
“So great is the strength of the infinite space, that its emptiness acquires the thickness of the corporeal”: These are the words used by the Art critic Werner Hofmann to describe this painting by Caspar David Friedrich, the most famous of all the German romantic painters. The painting depicts – in a somewhat fantasized way- the journey that the artist, his wife Carolina and his brother Christian did to the island of Rügen (Ruegen) in 1818.
The representation of the human figure facing the deep and almost infinite space is characteristic of Friedrich's oeuvre, who used this same effect in works as famous as “The monk by the sea” (1808-10), “The sea of fog” (1818) or “The cuirassier at the forest” (1813-14); but in this case the effect acquires a different meaning, more complex but definitely less dramatic. In the previously mentioned paintings, the surrounding and even threatening space subjugates the human figures. In this work, however, Friedrich has granted to the protagonists of the picture the dominion of the powerful landscape, nothing strange if we consider that the represented figures are the painter himself and his close family. For this purpose, he has used a very elevated point of view, and he also delimited the vision of this space using the branches of two trees in the upper part of the picture. Despite all this, this space does not lose an inch of its strength, and it becomes the unquestionable protagonist of the composition, even over the three personages and the fantastic chalk cliffs.
Text by G. Fernández, www.theartwolf.com