12 of the Most Famous Paintings by Caspar David Friedrich

Famous Paintings by Caspar David Friedrich

These are the 12 most famous paintings by Caspar David Friedrich. The German painter Caspar David Friedrich was influenced by the Romantic movement in the 19th century. His paintings frequently included an expansive Romantic landscape with a modest human element, highlighting the dramatic beauty and strength of the natural world.

Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818)

Wanderer above the Sea of Fog is one of the most recognizable paintings in art history and one of the most famous paintings by Caspar David Friedrich. This painting depicts a man standing on a rocky ledge looking out over a scene covered in a dense sea of fog, with trees and mountains pierced in the distance. The landscape is commonly believed to inspire the sublime. This painting has been widely regarded as an icon of self-reflection or contemplation of life’s path.

Cross in the Mountains (1808)

This painting depicts a golden summit cross with the crucified Jesus silhouetted in profile on a rock atop a mountain, surrounded by trees. The “Cross in the Mountains” is also known as the “Tetschen Altar.” In the modeling of nature, the landscape demonstrates considerable attention to detail. This is one of Friedrich’s earliest landscape paintings from the area where he lived.

Rocky Landscape in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains (1822-1823)

This painting depicts rocks creating the gate to Neurathen Castle in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, southeast of Dresden, reaching into the sky. Trees, ravines, and rocky pinnacles signify the birth and death of all things earthly and are visual metaphors for the divine and death, both of which are symbolic. 

Monastery Graveyard in the Snow (1819)

This painting depicts a monastic graveyard with oak trees in the background on a snowy day. Christian and pagan symbolism are reflected in the painting. Trees and forests represented life’s persistence, duration, and immortality. Other works by Friedrich that include similar oak trees include “Monk in the Snow,” “The Abbey in the Oakwood,” and “Oak Tree in the Snow.”

Friedrich: Cemetery Entrance (1825)

This painting depicts an angel flying toward the viewer through the gate and two wingless angels, or spirits, lying near the hillside. The huge frame defines everything: it’s the open entrance between life and death. “Trinity Cemetery,” where he was buried in 1840 (15 years after he started the painting), was combined into “Cemetery Entrance.”

The Abbey in the Oakwood (1808–1810)

This painting depicts an old abbey in the center with figures carrying a coffin entering the abbey. There is a sense of cool air around the area. This artwork is an example of Friedrich’s ability to depict human life’s difficulties through his painting skills. It’s one of more than two dozen works by him that feature cemeteries or graveyards.

Dolmen in the Snow (1807)

This painting depicts leafless trees in the winter snow, with the tops of two of the trees cut off while the third is bent by the wind blowing, giving the painting a haunted and ghostly feeling. “Dolmen in the Snow” is also known as “Cairn in Snow.” It’s a Romantic allegorical landscape with a peaceful gloomy atmosphere, displaying a stone cairn or dolmen. 

The Monk by the Sea (1809)

This painting depicts a single small monk figure, dressed in long clothing, standing on a low dune covered with grass. “The Monk by the Sea” was Friedrich’s most radical artwork. The monk standing before the immensity of nature and the presence of God is emphasized by the enormous expanses of water and sky.

The Sea of Ice (1823–1824)

“The Sea of Ice” depicts a shipwreck in the Arctic. Small icebergs placed on top of each other in the foreground resemble steps. The icebergs being smashed together in the background build an ice skyscraper. Before 1826, this work was known as “The Polar Sea.” When Friedrich died, the artwork had not yet been sold. One of the most famous paintings by Caspar David Friedrich.

Graveyard under Snow (1826)

This painting depicts a view of inside the cemetery, over the grave to the open gate, which is surrounded by a wooden structure of bare branches. The stormy sky is lifeless and empty. The exposed grave in the foreground has caused a lot of discussions. Underneath the snow, a symbolic and deep sorrow lies over the graveyard.

The Stages of Life (1835)

This painting depicts five ships breaking through the melba-colored sky at sunset, pushing towards the shadowy figures. Despite the fact that all of the figures have their backs to the observer, it represents the artist and his family. Suffering a stroke shortly after completing this painting left Friedrich partially paralyzed and severely limited his artistic ability.

Chalk Cliffs on Rügen (1818)

This painting depicts the view from the Stubbenkammer’s chalk cliffs, one of the island’s most famous observation spots at the time. Two men and a woman dressed in town attire look out the window in shock, and the thin figure in the middle is typically assumed to be Friedrich himself. The painting appears to be a celebration of the couple’s love for each other.

What famous paintings by Caspar David Friedrich do you think we should add to this list? Comment below.

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