Caspar David Friedrich (Greifswald 1774-1840 Dresden)
A Gothic brick building and two studies of trees
inscribed ‘den 18t Aprill/ 1809/ Greifswald’ and ‘Breesen/ den 14t Juni/ 1809’ and ‘den 14t Juni’ and with number ’37.’ (recto) and with illegible trimmed inscription (verso)
graphite, grey and brown wash
12 1/8 x 9 7/8 in. (30.9 x 25.2 cm)
Johan Christian Dahl (1788-1854) (with his inscription ‘Caspar David Friedrich/ + zu Dresden d 7 May 1840.’).
The estate sale of Karl Heinrich Beichling [date and place unknown], where apparently acquired by Dr. C. Jessen (according to Dr. Heinrich Becker's inventory).
Bethel Institution, Bethel (near Bielefeld) from whom acquired in 1936 by Dr. Heinrich Becker (1881-1972), (according to Dr. Heinrich Becker's inventory), and by descent to the present owners

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Lot Essay

The towering figure in 19th Century German painting, Friedrich was also a prolific draughtsman, by whom a very substantial number of sheets survive. Few important drawings remain in private hands, however, and the rediscovery of this unpublished example is a valuable addition to his œuvre. The drawing belongs to a group of nearly twenty studies on loose sheets (Loseblattsammlung), in which Friedrich focuses on trees and Gothic architecture in the surroundings of his birthplace Greifswald, in Northern Germany (C. Grummt, Caspar David Friedrich. Die Zeichnungen, Munich, 2011, II, nos. 579-595, ill.). All are dated between April and July 1809, when the artist visited his family, mainly to see his father, who had been ill for more than a year. As the artist’s own inscriptions indicate, the studies of trees were made on 14 June, the day of his father’s recovery, in Breesen, near Neubrandenburg, where (as a family letter informs us) his father had retired ‘to become healthy again by taking walks’ (ibid., p. 546). Nearly two months before, on 18 April, shortly after arriving at Greifswald, Friedrich made the study of a building in the upper half of the sheet, probably a house, characteristic for the region’s Gothic architecture. Drawing carefully from life, he subtly clarified its structure and materials by adding light brown washes, probably at home. (At upper right he had first tried out his brush after dipping it in the ink). The inscription at lower right is due to the great Norwegian painter Johan Christian Dahl, a friend of Friedrich who owned a large number of his works. Although not made as independent works of art, studies such as these, like Friedrich’s best pictures, show him both as an artist capable of close observation, and one finding a spiritual quality in the beauty of the world surrounding him.

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