Northern-German paintings of the 19th century
Parallel to the Nazarenes in Rome, there were Romantic artists painting in Northern Germany also, together with the main representatives Philipp Otto Runge and Caspar David Friedrich.
Characteristic for this Northern German movement was its independence from Roman influence. This also corresponds to its intention: in contrast to the representation of Biblical figures, which the Nazarenes wanted to revitalize under the influence of the newly discovered Middle Ages, Northern German Romanticism attempted to express its religiosity by means of a meditative realm. The pictures were to evoke in the observer a certain feeling; the vehicle for this was the human being in the landscape. The mythical immersion in nature became a leading motif for romanticism.Philipp Otto Runge understood the latter as a part of the divine cosmos. He did not specify his landscapes, but rather used personifications such as small genies. Caspar David Friedrich on the other hand showed concrete pieces of land that he had even travelled himself. Into these he placed his characteristic figures, looking into the distance, from behind.
This positioning was chosen consciously by the artist, because it corresponded to that of the observer, who was also supposed to sink into the landscape in meditation. In Friedrich’s works, one often finds a dark foreground and a light background; this method does not correspond to customary ways of seeing and rather helps to reproduce the world view of the artist. Caspar David Friedrich conveyed a pantheistic religiosity that expressed itself in an attachment to nature; he employed light imagery traditionally as a reference to God. However, he placed this far away, while the position of the human was in the dark. In technical terms, this lead to an atmospheric rendition and to an intensified study of the effect of light, which finally about a half century later would then be taken up again by the Impressionists with a new intent and against different backgrounds.