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

Woman before the Rising Sun (Woman before the Setting Sun)

Oil on canvas, 22 x 30 cm
Museum Folkwang, Essen

In 1818, at the age of 44, Friedrich married Caroline Brommer, a cheerful 25 years old Saxon woman. That Caroline was a positive influence on the artist, which is evidenced by the fact that, from this point on, women appear with greater frequency in his work. A new, friendly element seems to enter his pictures. A case in point is the painting to which some authors give the title Woman before the Rising Sun, and which others call Woman before the Setting Sun. The woman seen in rear view appears as a large silhouette against the intense reddish-yellow of the sky. It is difficult to interpret the fervent gesture of her outstretched arms and the stylised rays radiating from the mountains on the hazy horizon, heralding the presence of the invisible sun.

Caroline was probably the model for the female figure in old-German dress. Since she is stepping towards the light like an early Christian in prayer, some have sought to interpret the painting in terms of a communion with nature. On the other hand, the atmosphere evoked in Friedrich's painting might be interpreted as that of dusk, the path which terminates so abruptly as an announcement of death, and the boulders scattered alongside the path as symbols of faith. In the final analysis, few of Friedrich's pictures are as emphatic and almost exaggeratedly symbolic in their effect - factors which render the painting not unproblematic for the viewer.

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