Friday, 5 June 2009

Caspar David Friedrich - Wanderer above the Sea of Fog

German: Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer; also known as Wanderer Above the Mist)
Oil on canvas, 1818

Wanderer above the Sea of Fog is true to the Romantic style and Friedrich's style in particular, being similar to other works such as Chalk Cliffs on Rügen and The Sea of Ice. Gorra's (2004) analysis was that the message conveyed by the painting is one of Kantian self-reflection, expressed through the wanderer's gazings into the murkiness of the sea of fog. Dembo (2001) sympathised, asserting that Wanderer presents a metaphor for the unknown future. Gaddis (2004) felt that the impression the wanderer's position atop the precipice and before the twisted outlook leaves "is contradictory, suggesting at once mastery over a landscape and the insignificance of the individual within it."

Some meaning of this work is lost in the translation of its title. In German, the title is "Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer." There are several things to note about this German title. Firstly, Wanderer exists as both the word for "wanderer" and for the word "hiker." The character can thus be seen as lost and trying to find purpose, or as a resolute journeyman. The second subtlety is that the word "Nebelmeer" in German translates directly into "Fogsea." The audience though has the discrimination to interpret it as "the sea which is composed of fog," or "the Fog Sea." The first of these leads to a more abstract and philosophical view that compliments the "wanderer" translation of the first word. The second is more concrete and challenging, complimenting the view of the determined hiker.

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