Caspar David Friedrich - Wanderer above the sea of fog

by Alexandra Tuschka

The path ends here. Like a commander planting a flag in the conquered earth, the man proudly places his foot on the rock. He has his hand resting in his side; the walking stick, which has been his faithful companion up to this point, rests at his right. Before the man lies a moving spectacle of nature.


The fog, which plays around the forms in the lower picture background, seems whipped by the wind; only the particularly high rocks stand out from the dense white. In the background, soft mountains can be seen - they too are partially covered by the veil of mist. The rock on the right has been identified as the Zirkelstein, located in Saxon Switzerland. The rock group in the middle represents the Gamrig near Rathen, and the rock on which the hiker is standing comes from the Kaiserkrone. There is disagreement about the others. Frederick combined the various elements into an overall composition.


The wanderer is seen from behind and has no identity of his own. As is so often the case with Friedrich, this figure invites the viewer to look through his eyes; he serves as a figure of identification. And yet this painting is particularly remarkable because the man does not subordinate himself to nature here; he does not step aside to make room for us, to observe the spectacle of nature. No, he stands upright in the center of the picture and even takes away our view a little.


On the left the sun stands in the sky and above clouds pass slowly. The man stands like a motionless statue between the spheres - and that also in the figurative sense. The sun can be interpreted as rising hope, the fog as opacity of fate and uncertainty of what is to come. It links the real and the spiritual world.


On the summit, which juts into the picture as a triangular composition, the hiker has a little distance from the action. And through his eyes we also catch a glimpse of the eternal cycle of nature.


Caspar David Friedrich - Wanderer above the sea of fog

Oil on canvas, 1818, 98.4 cm × 74.8 cm, Hamburger Kunsthalle in Hamburg