The painting I’ve chosen is The Sea of Ice (also known as The Wreck of the Hope or The Polar Sea), by Caspar David Friedrich. It’s an oil painting on canvas and its dimensions are 97 x 127 cm. It was painted between 1823 and 1824; it was exposed in Prague’s Academy and two years later in Berlin. It was very criticized by society because it wasn’t the common landscape painting in those years. It didn’t find any buyer until 1843 (the artist was dead yet). Now, it’s in the Kunsthalle of Hamburg.
The painting represents an accident that took place in the North Pole, an expedition to explore the North-West part of the North Pole. We can see a piece of a shipwreck that has broken the ice into many huge pieces. The sky is almost dark, except for a part, in which we can see a bit of sunlight crossing through the clouds that light up the foreground, leaving the background in the darkness. We can hardly see another shipwreck in the background because of the lack of light. We can also see the details of the ice shadows that give more reality to the painting.
It’s a dramatic image of a shipwreck in the ice. It seems that there are no life signs inside the ship. The radical nature and subject was greeted in its own day with incomprehension and rejection. The huge pinnacles are the slowly moving icebergs because of the collision. The sky, confused with the disturbing horizon, responds to a use of ranges of grey and blue. The artist placed all the big ice pieces to confer an aspect without falling in the colour monotony. In this painting Friedrich used a triangular composition.
This piece of art can have two meanings: on one side it refers to the political situation in Germany in that period and on the other side, it may refer to the eternity of Nature against the fragile and mortal life of the human beings.
This painting shows the growing pessimism that characterized Friedrich’s life. His work became darker, revealing a fearsome monumentality. This painting is perhaps the one that best represents Friedrich’s ideas, in such a radical way that the painting wasn’t well received.
Friedrich was a romantic painter who tried show his feelings in his paintings, in which the wild nature or the loneliness were usual. He intended his paintings to function as pure aesthetic, so he was thorough with the that the titles given to his work weren’t descriptive or evocative. The titles weren’t given by the artist himself. They were adopted during one of the revivals of interest on Friedrich’s works. He didn’t directly name his paintings, because he thought that everyone has his or her own representation of the painting. So the title was relative.
Friedrich’s paintings aren’t very large-scale paintings, but although they are smaller, they are more humble and detailed works with an ambience that produces a great impact on the viewer. Friedrich’s represent nature, tombs, mist and that special light you only find at dusk and dawn.
Some of his paintings are:
The Abbey in the Oakwood
Monastery Graveyard in the Snow
Graveyard under Snow
Some Walt Disney’s films drew inspiration from Friedrich’s depictions of nature and they used this inspiration in the movie Bambi.
Also during the 1930s, his works were used as promotion of Nazi ideology, so it took some decades to recover his reputation from this association with Nazism. His reliance on Nazi symbolism contributed to his fall from favour.
Today, Friedrich’s international reputation is well established. He is a national icon in his native Germany and highly recognized across Europe. He is generally viewed as a figure of great psychological complexity.
I like this painting, because it’s very realistic. I also like the mixture of light and darkness in the background. It perfectly shows the pessimist mind he had in that moment and I have learnt a lot of Friedrich’s life and his complex mind.
These are the resources that I have used to find information about The Sea of Ice and Caspar David Friedrich:
The images are from Google images