Author: Caspar David Friedrich
Three oil studies by Friedrich of cloudy evening skies have survived, all of them dating from September to October, 1824. The impetus for these works probably came from his Norwegian fellow painter and friend Johan Christian Dahl, who from 1823 shared a house with Friedrich. In contrast to Dahl’s studies, in which the clouds are presented as compact bodies, Friedrich was concerned with intangible optical phenomena. In this painting he used a scale of orange, violet, and blue shades to orchestrate a delicate, elusive color tone that spreads out over an extremely low horizon. His wife Caroline is once said to have remarked: “On the day he is painting air, he may not be spoken to!”
In Novalis’s unfinished novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen, posthumously published in 1802, we find the following hymn to clouds: “… and while their outward form is lovely and joyous like a wish floating up from the depths of the heart, their luminosity – that wondrous light with which they invest the earth – is like the portent of an unheard-of, ineffable glory.”
This painting, originally from the Belvedere collection, is included in the Beethoven Moves exhibition until 24 January 2021 at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. The exhibition gathers amazing pieces of art and much more, all of which are brought into dialogue with the music and persona of Beethoven.