FRIEDRICH, Caspar David
(b. 1774, Greifswald, d. 1840, Dresden)
Winter Landscape with Church1811
Oil on canvas, 33 x 45 cm
Museum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Dortmund
In a letter of 22 June 1811, written by Friederike Volkmann in Dresden to the psychologist Dr Christian August Heinroth in Leipzig, this painting is described as the pendant to the Winter Landscape now in Schwerin.
The Schwerin painting is characterized by the sombreness of an expanse of snow stretching away into the infinite distance, which modern interpreters see as a symbol of death, a nihilistic sign of doom. The pendant in Dortmund introduces, for the first time in Friedrich's oeuvre, a Gothic church, seen as a monumental vision emerging out of the mist like a phantasmagoria and rising against the gloomy background of a winter sky. Nearer the viewer, a man is leaning back against a boulder and gazing up the crucifix in front of a cluster of young fir trees. He has flung his crutches demonstratively far away from him into the snow. This combination of motifs has been interpreted as a reference to the security of the Christian in his faith.