Caspar David Friedrich in Greifswald
There are so many connections to Caspar David Friedrich in his home city. The Caspar David Friedrich Picture Trail highlights these connections on its route through the historic city centre and into the surroundings of Greifswald. At 15 stations visitors learn about important places in the painter’s life and also discover some of Friedrich’s favourite painting motifs, experiencing the typical atmosphere of Friedrich’s art up close. Something very special in Greifswald is that the house of Caspar David Friedrich’s parents on Langen Strasse 57 is still there. This is where the landscape painter came into the world on 5 September 1774. Today, the house is home to the Caspar David Friedrich Centre, a personal museum displaying extensive and detailed information and picture material on Friedrich’s life and work. The candle and soapmaking workshops, originally opened by Friedrich’s father, are also part of the exhibition. At the same time, contemporary pieces related to the most important representatives of the Romantic movement are presented. The owner and operator of the museum is the Caspar David Friedrich Society.
Romantic cathedral and the first art lessons
An important place connected to Friedrich’s life in Greifswald is the church where he was
baptised, St. Nicholas‘ Cathedral. Not only a common painting subject for Friedrich and
significant to the family (close to his parent’s house, family baptisms, weddings, funerals took
place here and were recorded in the official registers), it was also a business partner for the
Friedrich family (suppliers of soap and candles.)
What’s more, during the Romantic era (from 1824 to 1832) the interior of the church was
redesigned by many artists, including Christian Friedrich, Caspar David’s younger brother.
While a direct influence cannot be proven, many design decisions of the architect Gottlieb
Giese are closely related to Friedrich’s drafts for the redesign of St. Mary’s in Stralsund.
The renovation of the Greifswald Cathedral in the 1880s and 1980s aimed to bring this
“romantic” vision of a Gothic sacral building to life. The University of Greifswald symbolises
the painter’s first place of artistic training – its academic art teacher Johann Gottfried
Quistorp gave young Friedrich his first art lessons.
The trail also leads the visitors to Greifswald Harbour.
Photo: © Ralph Eckardt
A view of the city as it was in 1822
Another significant and remarkable motif for Friedrich is the nearby Jacobi Church. It was eternalised as ruins in the now lost painting “Monastery Burial-Ground under Snow” (1817-19), for example. The lifeline of the city of Greifswald, the Ryck River also began to attract
Friedrich as an adolescent. Drawing here was the best way to capture the city’s maritime character. Friedrich’s work contains numerous ship studies, and some of his paintings also feature Greifswald Harbour as a subject.
The picture trail also includes the world-famous view of the Greifswald city skyline with its three brick churches, captured in Friedrich’s painting Meadows near Greifswald (1820-22, Hamburger Kunsthalle).
Friedrich’s favourite motif
Wieck and Eldena city districts represent other significant motifs for Friedrich. One of them being at the “Utkiek” in Wieck, where the River Ryck meets the Bay of Greifswald. This was the backdrop for Friedrich’s extraordinary painting and later work The Stages of Life (1835, Museum der Bildenden Künste in Leipzig).
Founded in 1199 by Cistercian monks, Eldena Abbey was extremely significant in the development of Greifswald as a city. To honour this, Caspar David Friedrich studied the architecture, badly destroyed after the Reformation, from all drawing perspectives and placed them as a key motif in his paintings. It was possibly due to his depiction of the abbey ruins in his oil paintings that the location attracted attention from outside the region, which then also led to the remains of the abbey receiving protected status at the beginning of the 19 th century.
Today, Eldena Abbey is both a memorial to Gothic brick architecture and symbolic of the
Views like this were inspiration for many of Friedrich’s paintings.
Photo: © Ralph Eckardt
Painting meets landscape
The picture trail ends in the city centre at the Pomeranian State Museum, in which Friedrich’s original works can be seen as part of an important collection. In addition to five of Friedrich’s paintings, work by his contemporaries such as Philipp Otto Runge, Carl Gustav Carus, Johann Christian Clausen Dahl, as well as Danish Romantics, are on display. The museum also has a large collection of drawings and letters from Casper David Friedrich, which will be presented in the anniversary year.