FRIEDRICH, Caspar David
(b. 1774, Greifswald, d. 1840, Dresden)

Rocky Ravine

Oil on canvas, 94 x 74 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Friedrich's emotionally saturated imagery, the visual language of atmospheric and "ideal" painting alike, stood in blunt contradiction to the Realist tendencies emerging in Germany at that time, as seen above all in the work of the Düsseldorf School. Friedrich emphatically rejected pure fidelity to life, the mere imitation of what was perceived by the human eye. Only on a few occasions does Friedrich appear to have attempted a more realistic approach, as for example in the unusually dramatic Rocky Ravine. Untamed nature is here portrayed with a descriptive detail that betrays the influence of Friedrich's fellow artist Dahl, who had specialized in precisely such a style.

The sandstone formation in the background stands on the Neurathen the Elbsandsteingebirge mountains. The rocks are portrayed larger than in real life, and Friedrich has introduced a deep ravine beneath the tallest pinnacle.