Friday, 24 June 2011

Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840)

Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon (1830-35)
by Caspar David Friedrich

The most famous play of the 20th Century is Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. Much has been written on what the play is about. Is Godot God? Beckett said no, but no one listened. He was only the author, after all. He also said that he did not know who Godot was, and that if he had known he would have said so in the play. Good point. And in 1975, according to American scholar and Beckett friend Ruby Cohn, she was in Berlin where Beckett was assisting in a production of Godot, when together they went to see a collection of paintings by German Romantics. One was Man and Woman Observing the Moon by Caspar David Friedrich, and, according to Cohn, Beckett announced: 'This was the source of Waiting for Godot, you know'. [Damned to Fame, The Life of Samuel Beckett by James Knowlson, p378]

Friedrich was born in the Greifswald (Swedish Pomerania) and studied in Denmark before settling in Germany. He established himself as a leading Romantic landscape painter, his works often depicting characters in silhouette against a dramatic background [Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818)].

Towards the end of his life his paintings were no longer in vogue and he died in obscurity, but was rediscovered the 1920s by the Expressionists. Unfortunately, the Nazis in the 1930s also liked his work, and this had a detrimental effect on his post-war reputation, though he is once more established as an important artist.

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