Caspar David Friedrich and the Düsseldorf Romanticists

In his lifetime, Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) had an ambivalent relationship with the representatives of Düsseldorf landscape painting.

15.10. - 24.5.2021

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During his lifetime, Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), the most eminent artist of German early Romanticism, had a lively relationship with various representatives of Düsseldorf landscape painting. It was marked by criticism and polemics but also by mutual recognition. From the 1820s onwards, Friedrich's work lost popularity and was finally eclipsed by the up-and-coming Düsseldorf School of Painting.

The exhibition comprising approximately 120 works illustrates the changes in taste occurring in the period between early Romanticism and the beginnings of the Realist movement. For the first time Saxonian landscape painting forms a dialogue with works of the Düsseldorf School of Painting. Around 30 paintings and 20 drawings by Friedrich, as well as works by his Dresden colleagues Carl Gustav Carus (1789-1869), Ludwig Richter (1803-1884) and Ernst Ferdinand Oehme (1797-1855) are juxtaposed with paintings by the Düsseldorf artists Andreas (1815-1910) and Oswald Achenbach (1827-1905), Carl Friedrich Lessing (1808-1880), Johann Wilhelm Schirmer (1807–1863) and others.

The first half of the 19th century saw a lively and multifaceted cultural exchange between the Rhineland region and Saxony. From 1826, Friedrich exhibited at a variety of German art academies, as did the director of the Düsseldorf Academy of Art, Wilhelm Schadow (1788-1862), and members of the early generation of the Düsseldorf School of Painting. According to Friedrich, contemplation of nature was meant to facilitate an exploration of the inner self; landscape paintings were not merely intended to depict nature, but to arouse emotions, as is symbolised by the Rückenfigur motif (figure seen from behind). From the late 1820s onwards, works by artists in both Düsseldorf and Saxony made reference to Friedrich’s paintings. However, paintings by Düsseldorf artists increasingly exhibited more dramatism and pathos, as well as being of a considerably larger format; they told stories and were convincingly refined technically. This style of painting gradually had an increasing influence, particularly on the Saxonian art scene, and thus, leading Düsseldorf painters were eventually awarded professorships at the Dresden Academy.

Presented in eight sections ranging from studio scenes to a variety of landscape themes, the exhibition explores the ways in which Dresden Romanticism came to be superseded by the Düsseldorf style of painting, as well as addressing the social developments underlying this change in taste. Alongside native landscapes, maritime paintings and moonlit nocturnes, the exhibition also illuminates the plein air study as a working method. Referring to issues such as ephemerality – a central theme in Romantic art – the exhibition illustrates the evolution of painting from the silent contemplation of Caspar David Friedrich to the social satire occurring in genre paintings by Düsseldorf artists. Further interesting contrasts are demonstrated by comparing Friedrich’s contemplative Rocky Reef on the Sea Shore to the stormy dramatism of Andreas Achenbach’s Storm at Sea off the Norwegian Coast. Important loans from the Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Folkwang Museum Essen, Musée du Louvre, Paris, Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, Städel Museum, Frankfurt, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid, as well as a variety of other renowned public and private collections complement the extensive show.

The exhibition is a collaboration with the Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig.

Curators: Bettina Baumgärtel, Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, and Jan Nicolaisen, Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig.


Caspar David Friedrich | The Stages of Life, c. 1834, Oil on canvas, 72.5 x 94 cm, © Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig, Photo: InGestalt Michael Ehritt


Exhibition trailer

Works shown in the trailer

The following works are shown in the trailer:


Captions of the artworks (in the order of appearance):

1: Caspar David Friedrich, Frau am Fenster, 1822, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie, © bpk / Nationalgalerie, SMB / Jörg P. Anders

2: Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Spreeufer bei Stralau, 1817, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie, © bpk / Nationalgalerie, SMB / Jörg P. Anders

3 und 9: Caspar David Friedrich, Lebensstufen, um 1834/45, Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig, Foto: InGestalt Michael Ehritt

4: Andreas Achenbach, Ein Seesturm an der norwegischen Küste, 1837, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, © Städel Museum - ARTOTHEK

5: Caspar David Friedrich, Kreuz im Gebirge, um 1812, Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, Foto © Kunstpalast - Horst Kolberg - ARTOTHEK

6: Johann Wilhelm Schirmer, Das Wetterhorn, 1838, Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, Dauerleihgabe der Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Foto © Kunstpalast - Horst Kolberg - ARTOTHEK

7: Caspar David Friedrich, Ziehende Wolken über dem Riesengebirge, um 1820, Hamburger Kunsthalle, © bpk | Hamburger Kunsthalle | Elke Walford

8: Ernst Ferdinand Oehme, Bergkapelle im Winter, 1842, Privatsammlung, © Sasa Fuis/ VAN HAM Kunstauktionen GmbH&Co. KG



The presentation is accompanied by a 208-page catalogue in German published by Sandstein Verlag, including a foreword by Felix Krämer / Jeannette Stoschek and texts by Bettina Baumgärtel, Johannes Grave, Florian Illies, Jan Nicolaisen and Maria Zinser.

Museum edition: 29,80 €
Retail edition: 38,00 €

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