Friday, April 4, 2014

40 Days of Paintings - The Sea of Ice (Caspar David Friedrich)

I have to admit, I'm not sure exactly what to say about today's painting.  It's so strange, and it's a hard one to read as far as its intention.  But one thing is for sure, it is extraordinary.  This is Caspar David Friedrich's "The Sea of Ice."  I've known this painting for a long time, and when I first saw it, I was pretty young and so I didn't know much about art.  So if you'll pardon my horrible cliché, I thought it was a photograph.  And I thought it was a photo of some old pile of trash or something in a metal scrapyard (the brown ice in the lower foreground just threw me off that much).  It didn't hit me until much later on that this was a painting.  And then even later on than that, that this was a painting of ice.  My vision of this painting was way off.
So as I said, I really don't have any attempt to say something profound or meaningful about this painting other than I am simply mesmerized by it.  It is said that Friedrich fell through some thin ice at a young age, and that traumatic experience was something of an inspiration for this painting.  The thing that I cannot get over about this painting is the dramatic light from above that illuminates the sharp icy pinnacles, and the beautifully geometric block-like nature of the ice that has somehow discolored with age, and makes it seem as though this ice has been literally frozen in time and has been stacked this way for eons.
On the right side of the composition, we can see the remains of a boat that has crashed and is partially sunken in the sea, giving the indication of a tragic incident that has happened.  Friedrich has done with this painting what the best artists try to do, and that is to show beauty in the midst of ugliness or tragedy.  The almost celestial light from above makes me think of how God is there even in tragedy.  He is not distant, and the hardships are never hidden from His view, even in cold, icy, remote locations.

The Sea of Ice
oil on canvas

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