Follow in the footsteps of Caspar David Friedrich
In 2024, Germany will celebrate the 250th birthday of Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), one of the most famous German painters and arguably one of the most significant artists of the Romantic era – an era that, from the end of the 18th century onwards, favoured emotion and mysticism above reason, and the enjoyment of nature above industrial progress.
Many of his works became iconic, including the famous "Chalk Cliffs on Rügen" and the "Wanderer above the Sea of Fog". The motifs he embraced on his travels through Germany – from Greifswald to the Harz Mountains, and from the Elbe Sandstone Mountains to the Alps – featured isolated mountain landscapes, mystical ruins, storm-tossed coasts and, always, the human figures as silent observers.
His drawings and paintings remain just as fascinating today as they have ever been – in fact, nowadays, their message is more relevant than ever, especially in their longing for untouched nature.
This 250th anniversary is the perfect opportunity to combine nature and culture in one trip: numerous exhibitions, festivals, guided tours and concerts taking place at his most iconic sites, commemorate this artist in his anniversary year. You can also discover travel tips to follow in the footsteps of Caspar David Friedrich and experience impressive natural landscapes, romantic spots and cultural sights in the surrounding areas.
Comparing then and now
A then-and-now comparison of the painting "Wanderer above the Sea of Fog" by Caspar David Friedrich still conveys the timeless fascination of the rocky landscapes of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains.
The nature featured in the painting "Meadows near Greifswald" is also still preserved in its original form, just as Caspar David Friedrich captured it. However, the comparison also impressively reveals how the panorama of the village itself has changed over the centuries.
Events in the anniversary year
Exhibitions and retrospectives, lectures, concerts, guided tours and painting courses: numerous places closely associated with the life and work of Caspar David Friedrich will celebrate the 250th anniversary of his birthday with an extensive programme of events. You can experience the highlights in the cities of Berlin, Dresden and Hamburg, among others. Be sure not to miss out on the compelling and diverse lineup of events in his hometown of Greifswald either. Use the filter functions on this page to find exciting events to suit your taste!
01.10.2023 - 31.12.2024
Guided tour/Painting courses
Following in the footsteps of the great Romantic painter
Guided tour/Painting courses, Greifswald
Starting in October 2023, various guided tours invite visitors to explore the city. They include the most important places in Caspar David Friedrich's life, as well as a visit to the house where he was born, and the painting gallery of the Pomeranian State Museum.
15.12.2023 - 01.04.2024
Caspar David Friedrich. Art for a New Age
This major anniversary exhibition offers the most comprehensive display of works by the most important artist of German Romanticism to appear for many years. In addition to the retrospective with over 50 paintings, a separate part of the exhibition highlights Friedrich's reception in contemporary art.
01.01.2024 - 31.12.2024
Guided tour/Painting courses
Guided painting tour with artist Andrea Molière
Guided tour/Painting courses, Lohmen
Artist Andrea Molière, who runs the studio "molière artdesign" on the Painters' Way hiking trail in Lohmen in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, is running themed painting courses. Suitable for all age groups, they will be led under her artistic direction in small individual groups in German and English.
01.01.2024 - 31.12.2024
Guided tour/Painting courses
Painting course in the footsteps of Caspar David Friedrich
Guided tour/Painting courses, Pirna
Presentation of artists' own artworks in the gallery workshop Ansichtssache, in the footsteps of Caspar David Friedrich. Claudia Pinkau and Heike Küchler will also run painting courses in the most exciting settings under the same theme: following in the footsteps.
Grand opening of the anniversary with Christian Löffler in concert
The patrons are expected to attend the opening ceremony of this anniversary year. Journalist Florian Illies will also give the keynote speech. Following the speeches, there will be a concert by a well-known electronic musician from Greifswald, accompanied by a spectacular light show.
21.01.2024 - 02.04.2024
YUN SHOU – Wolkenhände I
Contemporary art exhibition with a focus on the connection between Romanticism and Far Eastern philosophy. The name of the event comes from the Tai Chi movement by the same name, Yun Shou, which translates as 'cloud hands' (German: Wolkenhände).
Caspar David Friedrich's favourite motifs can be found throughout Germany – from the chalk cliffs on the island of Rügen to the Zittau Mountains. We've selected eight travel tips on offer here: for example, hiking in the painter's footsteps through the Elbe Sandstone Mountains near Dresden. Or combine a visit to the Greifswald town festival with a detour to its historic harbour!
Podcast on the traces of Caspar David Friedrich in Germany
Explore the world of the German Romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich in this podcast, which takes you on a journey along the path of his influence across Germany.
Host: Hello, this is Marianne Evenstein. In this episode, we are going to set out on a cultural journey across Germany to discover the life and times of one of the country’s most famous painters, Caspar David Friedrich. Joining us is Anett Hauswald, who is the coordinator of a program of events in Greifswald to mark the artist’s anniversary. So, Anett, what makes this artist so special?
Voice-over Anett Hauswald: Caspar David Friedrich was one of Germany’s leading Romantic artists. 2024 marks what would have been his 250th birthday. His painting “Wanderer above the Sea of Fog” is internationally known and has pride of place in several Instagram accounts. It’s very famous.
Host: That’s reason enough to travel with us through Germany, calling at the places where Caspar David Friedrich took inspiration for his world-famous pictures.
Host: Our journey begins in Greifswald. Anett, why are we starting here?
Voice-over Anett Hauswald: Greifswald is where it all began. Friedrich was born and raised here. He spent the first 20 years of his life here, and he kept coming back for inspiration for his work.
Host: The Caspar David Friedrich Trail is a walking route through the city of Greifswald. We are going to visit a couple of stops. The first one is a spot on the outskirts of the city center. Why have you brought us here, Anett?
Voice-over Anett Hauswald: Friedrich often came here to explore and hike, and of course to work on his many sketches, which eventually became the famous painting “Meadows near Greifswald”. That painting is on display in the Hamburger Kunsthalle. I think it’s very beautiful, and I like to bring visitors here because it is a very authentic place. When you look over the expanse of the paddock you can see the city skyline with the three churches that shape the cityscape and you almost feel as though you are standing in one of Caspar David Friedrich’s paintings.
Host: The Caspar David Friedrich Trail leads past many other places in Greifswald, such as the Museum Harbor. Now we are just outside Greifswald in, I would say, a rather mystical place that inspired Friedrich to create one of his most famous works. So where are we, Anett?
Voice-over Anett Hauswald: We are at the Eldena Abbey ruins. These are some of the most famous ruins in the world. They were made famous by Caspar David Friedrich, who discovered this place for himself and captured the abbey ruins from different perspectives, which he then included in his various works of art. He also managed to document this area shortly before the park and the area around the abbey ruins were given a major facelift.
Host: There are many other fascinating stops on the trail. Are you also planning any special events or exhibitions to mark the anniversary?
Voice-over Anett Hauswald: As befits a painter, there will always be exhibitions. The Pomeranian State Museum will host three special exhibitions with top-class works which have been loaned for the occasion. There will also be a special exhibition in Friedrich’s birthplace, which has since been transformed into the Caspar David Friedrich Center. We not only want to celebrate his actual birthday, but also to spend the whole of this special year with him. We warmly invite everyone to visit Greifswald in 2024, as there will be activities and events for young and old to enjoy.
Host: Greifswald was not the only place that inspired Caspar David Friedrich. Some of his most famous pictures are of the Baltic Sea island of Rügen, which just so happens to be the next stop on our journey. I’m happy to say that Anett is coming with us.
Host: Here we are on the island of Rügen. We’re on the beach, watching the waves of the Baltic Sea. Caspar David Friedrich came here often. Why is that, Anett?
Voice-over Anett Hauswald: Caspar David Friedrich has many connections to the island of Rügen, thanks to his art teacher. Rügen is on the doorstep of Greifswald, so to speak; and just like many of his contemporaries, Friedrich loved hiking. He was a good hiker and felt particularly at home in the wild outdoors. So it indeed made sense for Friedrich to explore the beauty of the island’s landscape for himself and, as is well known, he went on many hikes here in order to rebuild his strength and gain new inspiration. In other words, to take in the vastness of the landscape and to give it a new lease of life in his artwork.
Host: We have arranged to meet Gesine Häfner from the Königsstuhl National Park Center, who will tell us more. Gesine, can I go hiking here on Rügen, like Caspar David Friedrich did?
Voice-over Gesine Häfner: Yes, you can still follow in his footsteps. The Hochuferweg hiking route spans nine kilometers, from Sassnitz to the Königsstuhl or “King’s Chair”. There are sea views all along the route, which runs through beech forests and along the stunning chalk coast to the Wissower Klinken, the latter of which Friedrich also sketched. Then it’s on to the Königsstuhl and the surrounding Stubbenkammer, which also inspired sketches that were then incorporated into Friedrich’s painting “Chalk Cliffs on Rügen”.
Host: Rügen boasts fantastic views. You can really imagine Caspar David Friedrich standing here and working on his sketches. But Anett, as I guess you know, his most famous work depicts the Elbe Sandstone Mountains.
Voice-over Anett Hauswald: That’s right. The inspiration for “Wanderer above the Sea of Fog” came from low mountain landscapes, especially around Krippen in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains.
Host: And that’s why the Elbe Sandstone Mountains are the next stop on our Caspar David Friedrich journey. Come on, Anett. Let’s go!
Host: Here we are with Nicole Hesse from the Saxon Switzerland Tourism Association. Nicole, is this area actually as Caspar David Friedrich would have seen it when he captured it in his picture “Wanderer above the Sea of Fog”?
Voice-over Nicole Hesse: It's great that you've come all the way from Rügen to beautiful Saxon Switzerland. The “Wanderer above the Sea of Fog” is indeed one of his most famous paintings. It is of a hiker in a frock coat, standing on a clifftop, surrounded by the bizarre rocky landscape that is so typical of this area and, naturally and most importantly, the mystical fog that wafts around the rocks.
Host: And how can modern visitors best discover the places where Caspar David Friedrich and other artists once roamed?
Voice-over Nicole Hesse: The easy option would be to hike along the Malerweg Trail, which leads through the entire region in eight stages. And if you follow the trail, you will pass many spots that Caspar David Friedrich once visited, such as the Uttewalder Rock Gate and of course, the Bastei Bridge and the Kaiserkrone. The Kaiserkrone, or “Emperor’s Crown”, is the famous rocky peak on which the hiker stands above the sea of fog.
Host: Thank you, Nicole, for the tour of Saxon Switzerland. Anett, as we have just found out, Caspar David Friedrich traveled here from Dresden to go hiking. But he spent most of his life in Dresden. Why did he move there?
Voice-over Anett Hauswald: I can answer that using Friedrich’s own words. In one of his letters, he wrote: “I came to Dresden to continue my artistic work, close to the most wonderful artistic treasures and surrounded by the beauty of nature.” In other words, the art galleries and the surrounding landscape were decisive reasons for Friedrich to come to Dresden. He explored the surrounding area, that is, Saxon Switzerland and the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, thoroughly.
Host: So, let’s head to Dresden. It’s not very far from here. We have arranged to meet Karla Kallauch from Dresden Marketing there.
Host: Hello, Karla. Do you have any tips for us, on how we can learn more about Caspar David Friedrich’s creative period in Dresden?
Voice-over Karla Kallauch: It’s easy to follow in the footsteps of Caspar David Friedrich in Dresden. I would recommend starting with the Caspar David Friedrich monument on Brühl’s Terrace. The monument is right next to the Albertinum museum, where many works and many paintings by Caspar David Friedrich are exhibited. In the last few months, we have done a lot of research about Caspar David Friedrich and have identified more or less all of the places that are associated with him. Through that, we have mapped out a special Caspar David Friedrich Route.
Host: It’s definitely worth following, even if just to explore the city. Are you planning any events to mark Caspar David Friedrich’s anniversary?
Voice-over Karla Kallauch: There will be a large, comprehensive special exhibition entitled “Caspar David Friedrich. Where it all started”. The exhibition will open on August 24, 2024, and will be hosted by two museums: the Albertinum and the Kupferstichkabinett. Sketches and original manuscripts by Caspar David Friedrich will be on display, and visitors will be able to figure out what his creative process was like.
Host: Thank you, Karla, for showing us around in Dresden. Anett, we have come to the end of our tour in the footsteps of Caspar David Friedrich. To wrap things up, I’m interested to know what fascinates you personally about this artist.
Voice-over Anett Hauswald: Personally, I find Caspar David Friedrich so fascinating because the clouds and the wide sky landscapes that he depicts are so incredible that if you visit the various locations in Northern Germany or in Saxon Switzerland, you get the feeling that Friedrich’s work captures them perfectly and that you are standing right in the middle of one of his paintings. I cordially invite everyone to come to these special places, to be part of a Friedrich painting themselves.
Host: We cordially invite all of our listeners to join in. More information on Germany as a holiday destination and Caspar David Friedrich can be found on the German National Tourist Board’s website at germany.travel. There you will also find further suggestions for how to follow in Caspar David Friedrich’s footsteps.
Caspar David Friedrich's message
Caspar David Friedrich's art conveys, among other things, a timeless message that is more relevant today than ever. Works like "Wanderer above the Sea of Fog" show us the beauty and majesty of nature. The artist himself was also closely connected with nature and regularly sought it out in order to gain strength and tranquillity. Caspar David Friedrich preferred to travel at a leisurely pace in order to experience the surrounding landscapes and nature more deeply. Today we would call it "slow travel". In a time where sustainability, being close to nature, and the art of slow travel are of ever-increasing importance, Friedrich teaches us to celebrate nature and appreciate it anew. Follow in his footsteps through Germany!