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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Claude-Joseph Vernet: Morning

Vernet's Morning reveals the later 18th-century landscape tradition out of which Friedrich developed his later Romantic seascape compositions. Friedrich borrowed Vernet's compositions in which prominent beholders stand with their backs to the real spectator and gaze into a hazy infinity of picturesque voyaging. If mid-eighteenth-century Europe saw the mature development of the Grand Tour with its focus on classical and Renaissance monuments in Italy, later eighteenth-century travel culture expanded the Grand Tour by including a wider range of Gothic monuments in Northern Europe and a search for sublime landscapes in Germany, the Alps, the mountains outside Florence, and the Amalfi coast. With its wistful reverie and pair of kindred spirits before a hazy seascape where boats voyage off into a mysterious infinity (itself indebted to Claude's harbor scenes with sunsets), Vernet's Morning anticipates the new interest in landscape contemplation and interior musing seen in later eighteenth travel literature such as William Beckford's Dreams, Waking Thoughts, and Incidents (1783). Friedrich took this landscape tradition and deepened its removal from the picturesque mundane and momentary by removing genre elements, heightening sublime contrasts of light and dark, near and far, replacing familiar sunsets with more eerie moon light, and enlarging the introspective beholders in the foreground.


(Caspar David Friedrich)

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