Friedrich – Wanderer above the Sea of Fog

Hi everyone and welcome back to Exploring Art with Alessandro!

Today I want to talk about a very important painting in Romanticism: the Wanderer above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich.

Wanderer above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich
ARTIST: Caspar David Friedrich
NAME Wanderer above the Sea of Fog
LOCATION Kunsthalle Hamburg, Hamburg
YEAR 1818
TYPE Painting
DIMENSIONS 94,8×74,8 cm (37.3×29.4 in)
MATERIAL Oil on painting
Also known as Wanderer above the Mist or Mountaineer in a Misty Landscape (Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer in German), this painting has many interpretations. Starting with who is that man… Wanderer above the Sea of Fog For some scholars he is Friedrich himself, for others he is a general… The truth is that we don’t know. We just know that he is a red-hair man wrapped in a dark green overcoat and grips a walking stick in his right hand. Wanderer above the Sea of Fog

The Composition Wanderer above the Sea of Fog

He is exactly in the middle of the scene and the pyramid structure that Friedrich painted helps to have the idea that he fills the space even if a third of the painting is actually empty sky.

Wanderer above the Sea of Fog - graphic structure
Wanderer above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich

The landscape

What it’s important is that the wanderer gazes out on a landscape covered in a thick sea of fog, but that reveals some details. In the middle ground we can see several other ridges (with trees on the right) and, in the far distance, faded mountains.

This landscape is actually real. Or, better, it is composed of real natural elements from the Elbe Sandstone Mountains in Saxony and Bohemia, the table hill of the Zirkelstein in background on the right and the mountain in the background to the left could be either the Rosenberg or the Kaltenberg.

The mix of blue and pink color of the landscape is in contrast with the dark rock and overcoat making look them like as a silhouette since just little details are visible.


This effect is even amplified by a light: can you detect its position?

Why the Wanderer above the Sea of Fog is a masterpiece

However, we don’t feel like we are looking at 2 separate layers, but a perfectly balanced scene. And the more we observe it, the more we start to feel part of it.

We are a bit disoriented because we cannot see the protagonist’s face, but that’s exactly what Friedrich wanted: using that man as a bridge for us to feel as inside the painting.

Everyone of us stopped at least once to look at a beautiful landscape feeling awed, powerless and small and that’s exactly the Romanticism essence and why this painting is so important.


In conclusion, Friedrich has been able to paint a simple scene, but in this simplicity we are pulled inside it using the leverage of our memories and emotions.

That’s why it is considered a masterpiece and not a boring work of art.

I hope you enjoyed it. Don’t miss the graphic explanation on the video.

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