Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Winter Landscape


Winter has finally arrived. Just a couple of hours ago I was driving home with my friend Zeno along some back road in the midst of a (moderate) snow storm, and I truly felt elated: finally nature was once more on the front stage. The endless row of cars, the hosts of grey workers and their bad moods, the maddening noises, the silly malls, all gone. One occasional pair of car lights would suddenly pop up and disappear, leaving the scene unspoiled.

How majestic must life have been in the not so remote past, when mankind was still small in the vast canvas of life! My thoughts went back to the sublime paintings of Caspar David Friedrich, and particularly to Winter Landscape (1811). What was the name of that castle in the distance, or was it a church? Who lived there? Nothing is spoiling the sober beauty of the capacious expanse, nothing pollutes the unassailable silence that envelops the world.

There is peace, in that silence.

2 comments:

Greg Pass said...

How about another exercise. :)

Use a finger to cover up the man's discarded crutch in the foreground, and notice how your attention shifts.

The crutch's horizontal gravity balances the strong verticals that otherwise pull our attention up and away; it leads us into the scene.

As such, the crutch satisfies a measure of all great visualizations: it is double functioning: a crutch for the man pictured, and a crutch for... us!

Polymathicus said...

Good suggestion, Mr. Pass!

I have done the exercise, and here is what I have found: not just one crutch, but 2, and the crippled man with his back to the boulder praying to the crucifix.

Friedrich's immense cosmic perspective is deceiving: there are PLENTY of details that are visible only to the attentive eye. If you go to the site of the UK National Gallery you can see them all, thanks to a great zooming utility:

http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/cgi-bin/WebObjects.dll/CollectionPublisher.woa/wa/loadApplet?workNumber=NG6517&collectionPublisherSection=work

One can not only enter into the painting, as you aptly suggested, one can positively get lost in it!

PS I may decide to spend my winter vacation on a trip into this majestic landscape: much less crowded than skiing in Vermont