In 1818, the German artistCaspar David Friedrich, his wife Carolina and his brother Christian traveled to theisland of Rügen. The result of that trip is this painting where the three characters appear in that impressive landscape. Today the painting is owned by the Oskar Reinhart Foundation, located in the Swiss city of Wintherthur.
Friedrich's Rügen Cliffs
The truth is that usually in the grandiose landscapes painted by Friedrich, although human figures appear as in The Walker on a sea of clouds, it is the impressive nature that dominates the image and even the spirit of the painter. However, in this other frame it is not so much like that.
Perhaps because it is a peculiar family portrait there is a greater prominence of humans, and less immensity of the views. The artist has achieved this by using a very high point of view and delimiting the landscape with trees, which even close the views from above. That does not prevent him from being a ghostly and attractive nature, as he has accustomed us to in his collection of paintings.
Some landscapes that he places in fantastic and colossal places, such as the white cliffs of the island of Rügen, located in theB altic Sea. But not content with that, he was not satisfied with portraying a specific view. He took notes of the places he visited and then composed hisown panoramas, mixing elements from one place and another, in order to achieve greater spectacularity and also convey their ideas. Since the concept of his landscape is typical ofRomanticism, that is to say, through those places he pours out his feelings and his beliefs. In fact, he always said that it was God who manifested himself in those beautiful natural places.
Even if we look at the identification of characters, it seems that the central figure crouching on the ground would be Friedrich himself, and he would be surrendering himself so much to the beauty of the place like that of his young wife, who was 20 years younger than him.
This has led to another interpretation of the characters, and it is said that the two men would be the personification of the painter, both as a young man in love and as a mature man who is going to start a new life with marriage.
You can't really know for sure who they represent. Even less given the custom of C. D. Friedrich of painting figures from behind. Which was always a representation of the viewer himself who remains ecstatic and amazed at the grandeur of nature. That is, Romantic painting in its purest form.