Caspar David Friedrich - The Stages of Life (Die Lebensstufen, 1835)
Both Friedrich's life and art are marked with an overwhelming sense of loneliness. Caspar Friedrich (1774 – 1840) suffered many depressive episodes which see the emergence of such motifs and death symbols as vultures, owls, graveyards and ruins in his art. From 1826 these motifs became a permanent feature of his output, while his use of color became more dark and muted. In 2004 the psychiatrist Carsten Spitzer wrote that he believed during his life, Friedrich suffered prolonged inertia, a suicide attempt and what the artist himself described as a "dreadful weariness.”
The aged man is the artist himself, the small boy is his young son Gustav Adolf, the young girl is his daughter Agnes Adelheid, the older girl is his daughter Emma, and the man in the top hat is his nephew Johann Heinrich. The figures are echoed by five ships shown in the harbour, each at a different distance from the shore, an allegorical reference to the different stages of human life, to the end of a journey, to the closeness of death.
The Stages of Life is recognizably located at Utkiek, near Friedrich's birthplace of Greifswald in today's northeastern Germany. This area used to be part of Swedish Pomerania from 1613 until 1815.
Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig
found on: gandalfsgallery
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