The musician Sholto Kynoch picks a Caspar David Friedrich landscape.
Sholto Kynoch on his choice, ‘Winter Landscape‘ by Caspar David Friedrich
‘I sometimes wonder if Caspar David Friedrich is a bit predictable, trite even. But then I find that, for me as a musician, his paintings resonate in the same emotional space as a Schubert song: awe and comfort, striving and reconciliation, grandiosity and intimacy, all side by side.
‘The colours give such a strong sensation of winter and cold, but in a way that makes you long for it: it’s a similarly visceral experience to music. I don’t share Friedrich’s Christian faith, but the message that Nature and simplicity rule over crass mortal ambition is a powerful one.’
Sholto Kynoch is a pianist and the founder and artistic director of the Oxford International Song Festival (October 13–28).
Charlotte Mullins comments on Winter Landscape
In a snowy landscape shrouded by mist, a devoted man leans against a boulder, hands clasped in prayer. His journey has been arduous — his crutches lie abandoned in the snow. He sits on the cold ground and raises his eyes to gaze at a slender crucifix that appears to grow out of a thicket of fir trees. His eyes meet Christ’s in private communion, his piety conjuring the Gothic cathedral that rises above a distant bridge like a dawn mirage.
Completed in about 1811, this painting is believed to be one of a pair. Its contrasting companion piece hangs in the Staatliches Museum in Schwerin, Germany, a terrifying scene of two splintered dead oak trees and a decapitated wood. A man, also using a crutch, seems dwarfed by the angled trunks and blackened sky. What a contrast to Winter Landscape, with its straight, upstanding evergreen firs and soft morning light. Faith can resurrect and cure all, it seems to say. Believe in Christ and you can throw your crutches aside; turn away and a bleak, lonely future awaits.
Friedrich was at the height of his power when he finished this small painting. His large-scale works, such as Monk by the Sea, had been bought by the Crown Prince of Prussia and his religious landscapes made into altarpieces. He was at the forefront of German Romanticism, transforming the latest thinking on the sublime power of Nature into jaw-dropping visions of vast ice fields, vertiginous mountains and limitless horizons.
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