Wanderer above a sea of fog

Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, Caspar David Friedrich (1818)

We are starting our MTM series with a romantic masterpiece. This oil on canvas painted by Friedrich in 1818 is titled “Wanderer above the Sea of Fog”. It is as iconic as it is stunning.

Friedrich is considered the most important German artist of his generation. Reputed for his romantic landscapes, he famously claimed that:

The artist should not only paint what he sees before him, but also what he sees within him.

Caspar David Friedrich

In the middle of the painting stands a man, facing away from us. Rather than excluding us, this helps us see the world from his perspective. In front of him spreads a breathtaking sea of mist and mountain peaks. The wanderer stands in front of it all, in awe and contemplation.

Even though we cannot see his face, we can imagine it showing a mix of wonder and fear. He does not know what lies before him, he just knows that it is beautiful. In spite of this, he looks ready to take it all on. He willfully faces the unknown. He stands confidently in front of it, with one hand on his cane and the other in his pocket.

We have all been on the protagonist’s shoes before. We have all felt both belittled by an upcoming adventure, and empowered by our willingness to embark on it. We should always try to adopt this attitude in life, for it is the basis of self-overcoming.

This painting reminds us that the unknown is not only beautiful by virtue of its chaos and mystery, but also by the purposeful courage that we embody when we face it.

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