Abbey in an Oak Forest by Caspar David Friedrich
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.
Monastery Graveyard in the Snow byCaspar David Friedrich
Ten years after first painting this scene, Friedrich returns to it for a monumental new treatment. Unfortunately, this picture, which he entitled Monastery Graveyard in the Snow (Klosterfriedhof im Schnee), was destroyed during the air-raids of World War II, and we only have this black and white photograph. Nevertheless, because of its subject matter, the absence of color is probably not very critical. [x]