The stages of life | Caspar David Friedrich | 1835
Along with other artists such as JMW Turner and Constable in England, the German Caspar David Friedrich is one of the greatest exponents of the Romantic movement.
In his landscapes, he shows nature in different ways. Sometimes, it is dramatic and powerful; other times, it is bleak and depressing. In certain exceptions, his landscapes are calm and peaceful.
The artist liked to include small human figures in his paintings, but they are dwarfed against the landscape. Like all romantics, Friedrich considered nature as a divine expression. It was not the object of science anymore; it was the sublime expression of God. The artist enjoyed walking alone through forests and beaches contemplating in silence different landscapes. Then, he used these impressions in the canvas. Therefore, it is not surprising that his paintings have a contemplative and mystical air.
His need for introspection led him to become an isolated man. One of his friends depicts him as “the loneliest of the lonely.” As time passed, he showed that loneliness in his works with muted colors and dark compositions. Friedrich frequently meditated on aging, death and transcendence. In The stages of life, one of his last paintings, clearly shows the melancholy he experienced in old age.
The 5 characters that appear in it represent the Friedrichs. The artist, with a cane with his back to us is greeted by a man in top hat, his nephew. The woman and children are all sons of the artist himself. The landscape we see belongs to the north coast of Germany, near his birthplace. The ships arriving are allegorical elements. While many are close to their destinations, others are still distant. The old Friedrich, in this painting, shows us life as a path and the characters he used represent its different stages.