The Woman with the Spider Web between Bare Trees

September 5, 2019

 

Caspar David Friedrich was an early nineteenth century artist known for his landscapes. He became an icon of the German romantic movement at a time when art generally reflected a disdain for materialism and reached for a deeper meaning beyond the obvious. For Friedrich in particular, landscape was the expression of a personal search for connection with the divine. Often accused of sacrilege, he used landscapes and light with symbolic content intended to draw the observer into a spiritual connection with his work and nature. 

 

By isolating individual objects in this composition and rendering them in specific detail, such as the tree, spider web, and thistles, Friedrich gave them a heightened clarity that destabilizes the familiar and suggests a hidden, sacred significance within organic forms. The viewer’s dilemma---deciding upon the meaning and significance of the scene---is echoed by the woman herself who gazes beyond her immediate surroundings. Her pose and gesture suggest a searching awareness that evokes melancholy and suspended resolution. Surrounding her are symbols of morality in the barren trees, thistles, a caught fly, and the setting sun. In this woodcut, Friedrich depicted for one of the first times a theme that became a recurring leitmotif,
what art historians have called "the drama of the self facing the universe." (Cleveland Museum of Art)

 

"The artist should paint not only what he sees before him, but also what he sees within him. If, however, he sees nothing within him, then he should also refrain from painting that which he sees before him. Otherwise, his pictures will be like those folding screens behind which one expects to find only the sick or the dead."~Caspar David Friedrich

 

What do you see when you look within?  It's not important that you like what is there, only that you acknowledge it. How will you show your audience there is something more behind the screen?

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