Monday, November 19, 2012

Romantic Painting, part 2 "The Rückenfigur"

Evening Solitude, 20x30, acrylic on linen

Let me introduce you to an artist you might not know, Caspar David Friedrich. Friedrich was a 19th-century German Romantic landscape painter, generally considered the most important German artist of his generation. He is best known for his mid-period allegorical landscapes which typically feature contemplative figures silhouetted against night skies, morning mists, barren trees or Gothic ruins. His primary interest as an artist was the contemplation of nature, and his often symbolic and anti-classical work seeks to convey a subjective, emotional response to the natural world. Friedrich's paintings characteristically set a human presence in diminished perspective amid expansive landscapes, reducing the figures to a scale that, according to the art historian Christopher John Murray, directs "the viewer's gaze towards their metaphysical dimension.

Friedrich's paintings commonly employed the Rückenfigur—a person seen from behind, contemplating the view. The viewer is encouraged to place himself in the position of the Rückenfigur, by which means he experiences the sublime potential of nature, understanding that the scene is as perceived and idealized by a human. ~from the Wikipedia article found HERE

I think you can see where I'm gong with this. The concept of  Rückenfigur caught my attention and I've begun to put it to use in the painting above. Having my viewer enter my painting in that way is something that I'm definitely after. I invite my viewers to share the experience of contemplating the sublime potential of nature.

During the summer I was at Harkness State Park painting. I was over looking a marshy meadow filled with wildflowers. After several hours I was done and it was late in the day. When I turned around the scene was sublime. The golden hour had arrived and the land was bathed in a mellow amber glow, the sky was darkening, the clouds lit in purple-y hues, the sky pulsing with a the light of a dying sun. A photographer arrived and was walking down the path. She stopped to survey the scene and I snapped a quick picture with my phone. It seems we were both awed by the mystery and beauty of the scene. It was that moment, that was so arresting that I wanted to capture.

Below are some examples of Friedrich's work that include a Rückenfigur , or a group of figures gazing on the landscape.


Caspar David Friedrich, Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon (1830–35). 34 × 44 cm. Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin. In this work, the artist depicts a couple gazing longingly at nature. Dressed in "Old German" clothes, according to Robert Hughes they are "scarcely different in tone or modelling from the deep dramas of nature around them".

Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840)
Sunset (brothers), ca. 1835
Oil on canvas, 26 x 31

State Hermitage Museum St Petersburg


Caspar David Friedrich  

Moonrise over the Sea ,1822


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