RICHTER, Adrian Ludwig
(b. 1803, Dresden, d. 1884, Dresden)

Crossing the Elbe at Aussig

1837
Oil on canvas, 117 x 157 cm
Gemäldegalerie, Dresden

In his picture, Richter attempts to catch the simple, moving tone of a folksong, in order to lend resonance to the venerable idea of a "ship of life" in which all ages of man, from infancy to old age, are united, The young vagabond gazing up towards the castle ruins becomes a personification of Romantic yearning - depicted from behind to encourage us as viewers to identify with him - while the old singer invokes bygone times. The boat itself appears much too small to carry the people crowded into it, and seems immobilized in the middle of the river. The arch overspanning the composition is probably intended to give it a solemn, sacramental air.

This painting was enthusiastically received by Richter's contemporaries, and is still one of his best-known pictures in Germany today.