Caspar David Friedrich
Abbey in an Oak Forest

Click on the picture to see an enlarged version.

    • Oil on Canvas, 110.4 x 171 cm
    • 1809
    • Schloß Charlottenburg, Berlin.

Friedrich loved this particular kind of picture, and he repeated variations of it a number of times. It shows a huge gothic ruin of an abbey church in the middle of winter. The surrounding trees are stripped of their leaves, just as the ruined choir is stripped of its roof and attendant buildings. Obviously abandoned many years before, the abbey has been turned into a cemetery, and one can barely make out the grave markers in the foreground.

To Caspar David Friedrich, this scene could stand for many things, all at once. On one level, it was the decline of the old Church, leaving behind only impressive monuments of the faith that once sustained it. On another level, it is nature reclaiming its place, as oak trees now rather impiously grow where cultivated gardens and chapels once stood; And on still a third level, it is about death. The trees, the shrubs are as lifeless now as the chapel and abbey. Friedrich loved to paint scenes set in the "dead of the year" when shadows and mists turn reality into something mystical.

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