I don't necessarily consider myself an artist. When I think about drawing, I think of it in terms of illustration, when words just won't express all the feelings. Sometimes strokes and colors speak clearer, but that is not my typical inclination. When I see art, it inspires poetry in me. It inspires characters and worlds. Caspar David Friedrich bridged that world for me in the fall of 2011 while I was studying abroad in Berlin. I had the pleasure of seeing Friedrich's work in person, and I was blown away.
The Abbey in the Oakwood, 1809
When I first saw this piece, something inside me began to sing -- and not just in words, but in strokes and colors, in lines and shades. Caspar David Friedrich is considered one of the most important German Romantic painters of his time. He was born in northern Germany in 1774, and his art often explored the then-popular themes of recovering spirituality as disenchantment with the materialistic world grew. The grimness of his early work is attributed to his early familiarity with death. His mother, brother, and two sisters died by the time he was 17. After marrying in 1818, enthusiasts and critics noted the change in his work: brighter colors and the appearance of women.
Woman at a Window, 1822
Friedrich had such incredible talent that often the casual observer may not be able to tell what the medium of the work was. Though the following is a painting, it is not beyond conceivability that a master of the pencil could do such work as well.
Monastery Graveyard in the Snow
Less well-known, however, are his drawings. Friedrich composed several pieces, nearly all of them portraits. This one is of his father, dated 1808.
Adolf Gottlieb Friedrich Reading
His drawings generally come across as less precise and more "sketchy" or even cartoonish. Personally, they feel playful to me, projects whilst working on his paintings to keep his fingers limber.
The Romantic Reader
I admire Friedrich for his paintings mostly, which drawing can lend itself into. His precision, his obvious joy in his craft, the emotion expressed -- these are all lessons to be learned by any artist.