Friday, November 30, 2012

Caspar David Friedrich and Cross in the Mountain


I usually enjoy work from the late 18th century artist Caspar David Friedrich.  Friedrich is normally placed within the early Romantic movement, a reaction against the excessive rationalism of the Enlightenment era. Romantic era art emphasized the feelings of the individual mind over the objective 'scenes' and the fixed meaning of neoclassical art.  Most of Friedrichs work depicted obscure and indeterminate figures set against an expanse of nature.  Figures are typically facing away from us lost thought, or huddled in private conversations half-concealed by shadow.  It's left to the observer to impose meaning upon the painting or to join his figures in their contemplation.

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However I find his 'Cross in the Mountain' disturbing :


Supposedly the rays of the evening sun depicts the setting of the old, pre-Christian world;  the mountain symbolize an immovable faith and the fir trees are an allegory of hope.

When I see is a picturesque setting where a man nailed to a cross is given as much significance as a tree -  It's almost impossible to focus solely on the cross because your eyes are dragged towards the setting sun and I find myself wondering what the view is like from that cross. I don't want to look at a picture of a man dying a slow agonized death and think 'oh he must have a nice view from up there'. That ain't right.

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