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Why Caspar David Friedrich pits nature’s grandeur against the humble human

The painter Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) is perhaps the poster boy of German Romanticism – an aesthetic and artistic movement that, in the wake of Enlightenment’s rationalism, sought transcendence in the splendour of the natural world. Friedrich was best known for his landscapes, often featuring human figures encountering the overwhelming beauty of nature. And, as Evan Puschak (also known as the Nerdwriter) explores in this video essay, Friedrich often mined beauty from scenes that appeared cold and austere, rather than warm and welcoming. Because of these humbling depictions of people set against nature’s imposing grandeur, Puschak argues that Friedrich is the perfect artist for the final ‘punishing months’ of winter, when, in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, the warm joys of the holiday season have solidified into a deep, enduring frost.

31 January 2022

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