Caspar David Friedrich Evening Landscape with Two Men
Caspar David Friedrich's Evening Landscape with Two Men, painted in 1830, is a surging, transformational landscape from one of the seminal figures in the German Romantic movement. His solitary vista is punctuated by the thoughtful friendship of two men, a theme prevalent in the artist's works as shown in notable canvases such as Two Men Contemplating the Moon, and Two Men at Sea. Friedrich transforms the landscape into a boundless, picturesque horizon, as an ethereal light dominates the scenery. Despite welcoming his viewers with the epiphanic vision of countless sunrises and sunsets, the artist's characters always stand with their backs to the viewer, resolute in their contemplative silence. In Evening Landscape with Two Men the two comrades in angst appear as silent witnesses of nature, appearing to have little interest in each-other and remain strangers as night descends.
The Romantic style, developing after the French Revolution until around 1830, was forged in response to the sobering experience of the Revolution and the Industrial Revolution in Britain. The landscape in Romantic paintings of the early nineteenth century stands in stark contrast to the Baroque ideal landscape of the previous generation with its assured and predictable cosmic structure. Friedrich was the perfect example of the ideal Romantic painter, an individual who felt himself to be uprooted as the world around him has appears to lose its sense of logic. As the appearance of steelworks in the countryside belching out fire were surpassed only by the brutal violence committed in the name of liberty, artists turned to the theme of nature for their solace and their security.
Friedrich's barren coastal landscape is made only slightly more palpable by the scattered perpendicular figures of the silent pair, surveying the desolate landscape. The colossal size of the sky and the sea stand in stark contrast to the earthly limitations of the human figure. In the infinite horizontal lines of the marine landscape the human forms awkwardly interrupt the run of the sight lines. The layout of the canvas is an example of the Romantic ambition to bring the states of nature and the human mind into harmony. Yet these are human minds that seem not to communicate – whether they have said all there is to say, or whether they are mortal enemies – Friedrich's endless spatial plane gives way to a sense of claustrophobia, challenging the themes of friendship, longing and hope that are usually so prevalent in his works.
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