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A Critical Analysis of the Wanderer above the Sea of Fog Paper

A Critical Analysis of the Wanderer above the Sea of Fog

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A Critical Analysis of the Wanderer above the Sea of Fog

Subject Matter and Medium

‘The Wanderer above the sea of fog’ is an oil painting composed in 1818 by the German artist Caspar David Friedrich. The painting is archived in Kunsthalle Hamburg, a city in Germany. In the painting, a man can be seen standing on the pinnacle of a steep mountain, with only his back visible. He wears a dark green coat, and holds a walking stick in his right hand. The man’s flails in the wind, and he is looking out on a landscape whose atmosphere is foggy. Somewhere in the middle of the painting, one can see ridges that are a little bit lower than the one on which the wanderer stands. Inside the fog, one can see treetops and further some more mountains are visible with some plains close to the horizon. That is the farthest one can see, as beyond that point, there is just fog into the horizon. It is believed that the wanderer above the sea of fog is a self-portrait of Caspar David because the man standing on the precipice has similar red hair like the artist.

The portrait of the wanderer above the sea of fog is painted according to the romantic style as is characteristic of Friedrich’s other works. In Gorra’s (2004) analysis, his opinion was that the portrait evoked feelings of self-reflection and self-realization depicted by the lone man and empty ridges. Another scholarly writer Dembo (2001) also asserted that the wanderer presents a prediction or an allegory for the unknown future. Another writer, Gaddis (2004) says that, the wanderer’s position on top of the precipice and in front of the brush of vegetation is contradictory, implying that the individual in the portrait is somehow insignificant compared to the nature around him. The translation of its title tends to bring a loss in meaning and a little confusion. In German, the title is “Wanderer uber dem nebelmeer.” Wanderer in German can be taken to mean either “wanderer” or “hiker.”

Composition

The artist decided to paint vertically instead of the popular horizontal orientation seen in many portraits. Having the canvas in an upright position enhances the uprightness of the man in the painting. Friedrich uses the Ruckenfugen technique whereby the man has his back towards the viewers. Thus, the man becomes mysterious to the viewers. The palette he employs is brighter than usual. The mixes of the blues color and pink color across the sky are reverberated with the mountain and ridges in the distance. The dark green coat the man wears is typical German attire. With the light coming from deep inside the ridges making the fog glow, the image of the man and the mountain are intrinsically modeled. The tone of the painting is questionable since the face of the man is hidden from the viewer. He looks with amazement at the fantastic view before him confidently, leaning on his stick and having one hand in his pocket.

Artist’s purpose

Friedrich tries to use nature as a medium of physiological and spiritual biography. He uses his own portrait on the mountain, concealing his face-in order to compel the audience to look at life from his own perspective. In the painting of the wanderer, he stresses the idea that solitude combined with nature can be associated with physical and spiritual fulfillment. The artist wants to imbue the viewer’s imagination into seeing that understanding nature can lead to enlightenment.

References

Dembo, S., Andrew F. (2001). The Rules of Risk. John Wiley and Sons.

Gaddis, J. L. (2004). The landscape of history. Oxford University Press US.

Gorra, E. (2004). The bells in their silence. Princeton University Press. pp. xi-xii.

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