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

Chalk Cliffs on Rügen

c. 1818
Oil on canvas, 90,5 x 71 cm
Oskar Reinhart Collection, Winterthur

The painting was painted in recollection of the artist's honeymoon. We may assume that the figures are the painter, his wife, and his brother Christian. Again a double meaning is apparent, and the first impression of light and happiness is counteracted on a closer inspection. The three have ventured right up to the edge of the precipice. The man on the right is relying on the bush to prevent him from falling, while the woman is securing her hold by sitting down, and is also clutching a bush while she points down. The oddest figure is the painter himself; his hat seems to have fallen in the grass or been tossed down in haste. He has crawled to the edge, felling his way carefully, as if wishing to plumb the dizzying depth into which his companion is pointing. The double meaning between recollected experience and the "profound depth" of the symbols of life is evident. The view of the sea with the two sailing boats looks like a chasm that has opened beneath the figures, framed by the cliffs and the intertwining tops of the tress.

With this daring construction Friedrich has succeeded in making a visual combination of two extremes: the plunging ravine with its view of the sea and at the same time the endless horizon.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.