© Jacqueline Günther

Caspar David Friedrich

in the Saxon Switzerland

It is probably the most famous painting of German Romanticism: the "Wanderer above the Sea of Fog". It was created around 1818 by Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840). Fairytale-like, mysterious and lively - this is how the landscape presents itself to the viewer. The painting is famous not only for its aesthetic qualities, but also because it symbolises the spirit of Romanticism.

The landscape depicted in the painting is Saxon Switzerland. For Friedrich, who spent most of his life in Dresden, the nearby rocky world was a place of longing, inspiration and refuge in a world that had fallen apart at the seams. The 250th anniversary of the artist's birth in 2024 is a good occasion to follow in his footsteps in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains and offers an opportunity to reconnect with nature and the landscape in the spirit of the Romantic artist.

The artist Caspar David Friedrich & the time

© Hamburger Kunsthalle, bpk, Foto: Christoph Irrgang

Caspar David Friedrich was born in Greifswald in 1774, the sixth of ten children in a family of craftsmen. After studying at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, Friedrich moved to Dresden at the age of 24, which at the time was a European art mecca with its important academy. For Friedrich, who spent most of his life in Dresden, the nearby rocky world of Saxon Switzerland was a place of longing, inspiration and refuge in a world that had fallen apart at the seams.

These were turbulent days - politically, socially, religiously and culturally. Industrialisation is rapidly changing people's living conditions, the Enlightenment is changing the world view. Napoleon and his troops carry the horrors of the French Revolution far into Europe. As a reaction to the new rationalism of the time, a new artistic movement emerges: Romanticism. A turn towards nature, the search for the metaphysical, introspection, the investigation of aesthetic principles: These are some of the characteristics of the new art. Dresden became an important centre for this and Caspar David Friedrich one of its most important representatives.

Caspar David Friedrich & Saxon Switzerland

© Iven Eißner

Threatening, mysterious and both terrifying and attractive: this is how Friedrich often depicted Saxon Switzerland in his paintings. He had found the ideal of a romantic landscape here. The perception of nature as a source of realisation: this was a defining theme for the painter throughout his life. Time and again he sought solitude and silence, not only to see nature and landscape, but to feel them. Pausing, contemplating, feeling: Caspar David Friedrich invites us to do just that.

The 250th anniversary of the artist's birth in 2024 is a wonderful occasion to follow his paths through the region and track down his favourite places.

Experience Caspar David Friedrich in Saxon Switzerland

© Philipp Zieger

Even in Caspar David Friedrich's day, Dresden artists knew the most spectacular vantage points, the most impressive motifs and the ways to get there. Friedrich had also used these paths. Today's Malerweg Elbsandsteingebirge follows many of these historic paths. The Uttewalder Grund, the Neurathen Rock Gate and many more of Caspar David Friedrich's motifs can be discovered by hikers along the total of 116 kilometres of long-distance hiking route.

 The Caspar-David-Friedrich-Weg commemorates Friedrich's "flight to Krippen" in 1813. The trail, which is about 15 kilometres long, leads from Krippen along the Elbe up to Schöna with the imperial crown and then over the Wolfsberg and through Reinhardtsdorf back to the starting point. The drawings in the "Krippen Sketchbook" show that the artist must also have been on this route. Information boards along the path show the impressions created at the respective places.

Impressions of the Caspar David Friedrich trail

Caspar David Friedrich & Bohemian Switzerland

© Iven Eißner

In May 1808, Caspar David Friedrich set out on a hike in Bohemian Switzerland. His goal was the Prebischtor area in order to see the Rosenberg and Kaltenberg up close. He was on the road for three days and drew four sketches on a piece of paper. Friedrich had climbed the Winterberg, crossed the Bohemian border and continued walking in the direction of Prebischtor. That was the usual route of the Fremdenweg at that time.

Events in the Caspar David Friedrich anniversary year 2024

On romantic paths in and around Pirna

Stadtmuseum Pirna© Achim Meurer

"Between sandstone and chalk sea. Homage to Caspar David Friedrich by contemporary regional artists".

From autumn 2024 there will be a special exhibition at the StadtMuseum Pirna. The illustrious show will be dedicated to today's examination of the artist's time and will find itself in the unique arc of tension between early Romanticism and the realism of our era.

Caspar David Friedrich meets Richard Wagner

© Achim Meurer

Nothing less than a little piece of heaven awaits the inclined guests in the venerable Richard-Wagner-Stätten Graupa  in the anniversary year. From 6 to 9 June 2024, the renowned Richard Wagner Spiele will send the greatest artists of their time into an unprecedented art competition on historic grounds: the grand master of opera, cult composer Richard Wagner, enters the studio of painter Caspar David Friedrich at night and demands: "Paint me!" Sparks fly in this fictional contest of the arts, in which there is only one winner at the end - the audience!

The music for this production was written by the Dresden composer Johannes Wulff-Woesten based on pictures by Caspar David Friedrich. The memorable spectacle is to be performed from 6 to 9 June 2024 on the grounds of the Richard Wagner Sites Graupa. The public dress rehearsal is to take place on Thursday, 5 June 2024.

"Hiking companions - in the footsteps of the romantics in Saxon Switzerland"

© Amac Garbe

On January 27, 2024, the special exhibition “Hiking Companions - Following in the footsteps of the Romantics in Saxon Switzerland” opens in the Peter Ulrich House. Based on the hiking guide by Veith & Engelhardt "Mahlerische Wanderen", according to which Caspar David Friedrich planned his hikes, romantic pictures from Tom Pauls' private collection will be on display. On January 27th and 28th, 2024, puppeteer Karl Huck from the Hiddensee Seebühne will be a guest with his Caspar David Friedrich program “Voices from the Sea of ​​Fog”.

"Between heaven and earth. Two men in conversation"

© Schlösserland Sachsen

Special exhibition at Stolpen Castle from June 22nd to August 4th, 2024

In some of his pictures, Caspar David Friedrich painted a rather mysterious setting: two men in black coats and wide black berets stand with their backs to the viewer and look out into the landscape. Two men by the sea at moonrise, evening landscape with two men, in another picture these mysterious knowers look at the city of Neubrandenburg, which ducks under the morning sky. Who are these two? Is it perhaps Caspar David Friedrich himself, together with his friend Carl Gustav Carus? Who knows. The question also arises: do the two of them tell each other something, or do they just keep quiet?

And finally: when they tell each other something, what are they talking about? The writer Václav Vokolek and the photographer Zdeněk Helfert investigate this small but charming mystery in their exhibition “Between Heaven and Earth” and spin a fine and very entertaining thread. The Fotoforum Dresden and Stolpen Castle present this special show in cooperation.

On the road with a painter's backpack and artists from the "Ansichtssache" gallery workshop

© Galeriewerkstatt Ansichtssache

Many famous painters have visited Saxon Switzerland, left their mark there and created impressive works of art. The artists Heike Küchler and Claudia Pinkau of the Pirna Gallery workshop „Ansichtssache“ , in cooperation with the Saxon Switzerland Art Association and other regional artists, are particularly concerned to cherish the memory of these painters. On the occasion of the Caspar David Friedrich anniversary, they have followed his footsteps and created their own works of art, which they will present in their gallery in 2024. The two artists will also offer courses for those interested, where they will follow in Caspar David Friedrich's footsteps with their painting equipment to the most exciting places where the artist found his motifs. Under their guidance, everyone can create their own work of art in their favourite technique.


Guided painting tours with the artist Andrea Molière

Andrea Molière im Atelier© Agentur Projekt 40 Jeanette Koch

The artist Andrea Molière, who runs the studio on the Malerweg „molière artdesign“ in Lohmen in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, offers themed painting courses for all age groups in small individual groups under her artistic guidance in German and English. The modern, artistic linking of nature and historical painting locations is intended to enable unique experiences and adventures. Special Caspar David Friedrich painting courses are being planned for 2024. The artist will invite small groups of no more than four people to take part in guided painting tours lasting from one to five days. All the necessary utensils are included, from a painting backpack as a seat and a mobile easel to watercolour paper, brushes and paints.

There is an extensive range of courses for both 2023 and 2024, which can be requested directly from the artist. Her rocky, wooded and gorge-rich surroundings along the Malerweg in the heart of the Saxon Switzerland National Park have long inspired her to also walk in the footsteps of Caspar David Friedrich and record her impressions on paper in her own unique way.

Baroque meets Romanticism

Anne Kern, Kunstmeile in Wehlen © Marko Förster

In summer 2024, the Orangery of the Barockgarden Großsedlitz will host the exhibition "Baroque Meets Romanticism" with works by the artists Anne Kern and Gabi Keil , who both deal with landscape in different ways. What they have in common is their love of oil painting (on canvas and paper) and calm, even brushstrokes. The motifs vary from rock and quarry landscapes (Kern) to water surfaces and city views (Keil).


For both painters, the subject matter is quite unagitated. The motifs are at rest within themselves and radiate an inner contemplation and deep stillness. They invite the viewer to linger and dream - to pause and take a deep breath. Most of the pictures seem to have fallen out of time and, as it were, to be right in the middle of it. For the longing for silence and connection with nature, for infinity, which Caspar David Friedrich also sought, is as old as mankind. The artists' pictures mostly do without people and only give "references" to civilisation. The "simplicity" of the pictures refers to the return of people to their roots and the core of their being. This expression can also be found in the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich and can be marvelled at in magnificent compositions.

Romanticism adé! - The Robert Sterl House on the Malerweg

Blick auf das Robert-Sterl-Haus© Yvonne Brückner

The painter Robert Sterl does not belong to the Romantic painters, but he dealt with this period very intensively. As a stop on the Malerweg, the Künstlerhaus is therefore a worthwhile addition on the trail of the Romantic painters. In 2024, a special exhibition is planned that will show Robert Sterl's path to the Impressionist landscape painting. In addition to thematic special tours, a reading from letters by Robert Sterl, Carl Bantzer and other open-air painter friends as well as artistic workshops on the theme of landscape painting are planned as part of this exhibition.


Romantic seminars at Kuckuckstein Castle

Schloss Kuckuckstein© Mandy Krebs

Castle Kuckuckstein, an outstanding architectural and architectural-historical testimony to early Romanticism in Liebstadt near Dresden, has set itself the goal for the year 2024 of making the far-reaching attitude to life of the Romantics tangible and an experience for visitors in a special way. To this end, it will be entitled "Romantic Refuge. Lifeworld and Form of Expression around 1800", there will be a series of "Romanticism Seminars". These will not only impart knowledge of the contexts of the epoch in expert contributions, but will also deal in a vivid, varied and interactive way with areas of life such as the culture of letters, poetry, linguistic expression and books, but also the results of that search for forms in painting, music and architecture. Themes such as friendship, wanderlust, perception of nature and fashion will play just as important a role as the political ideas and historical upheavals of the time. The Romanticism seminars see themselves as "doors and spaces in time", to get closer to an atmosphere that seems to have disappeared and partly only lives on in paintings and poetry. Caspar David Friedrich will play a central role in these seminars, as he runs through these subjects throughout his life and also takes them up in his painting. His environment, his friends and relationships, basically the entire reality of his life, will be made comprehensible, indeed, recreatable.


Experience Caspar David Friedrich in Dresden

© Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Galerie Neue Meister

Finally, a visit to Dresden is also part of walking in Friedrich's footsteps in the region. The Dresden State Art Collections show one of the largest Friedrich collections in Germany in the Galerie Neue Meister with 14 paintings by the artist.

The Kügelgenhaus – Museum of the Dresdner Romanticism gives an impression of the era in Dresden in the former home of the painter Gerhard von Kügelgen, a friend of Caspar David Friedrich, and presents the lives and works of the most important artistic personalities working in Dresden at the time, including Caspar David Friedrich.

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