Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Caspar David Friedrich - The Stages of Life

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

next episode: London roads


  1. What a beautiful depiction. Certainly a tribute to his affection toward Emma (as central with the most clarity.) I especially enjoy the progression illustrated not only by the nearness to the horizon (or distance from shore) but the increasing sail area until we see the most distant craft under full sail - the same condition mimicked in the person of the artist, appearing himself to be fully decked out in sailcloth. This symbolism continues in spades suggesting so very much more that is probably best for the viewer of this masterpiece to work out for their own enjoyment.

    Suffice it to say, I see this expressing much vitality of spirit despite the infirmity of the flesh.

    Thanks Rob, I had never seen this before. I will remember it. Great post!

  2. It’s new to me too - beautiful.

  3. One of my fave artists. I saw a number of his paintings at the Alte Nationalgalerei in Berlin. The guard busted me for trying to take a photo (I didn't realize that gallery was off-limits for pictures.


I love to read your remarks and suggestions!

Please don't comment using the name 'Anonymous', because unfortunately these will end up in the spam department, due to the large bots leaving anonymous comments with questionable links...

Also don't use links that refer to commercial sites, this is spam (and me no likey spam)!


Gadgets By Spice Up Your Blog Real Time Web Analytics