Summer

When summer arrives, the scent of warm grass rises in the air and lushy green leaves sway in the wind, I like to look at Friedrich’s paintings. They offer me what I am looking for in contact with nature. Silence, rest and unhurried contemplation of the world. Everything that the city refuses me on hot days, buzzing with noise and hot concrete.

One of such meditative paintings is for me “Chalk Cliffs on Rügen”. A distant horizon enclosed in a frame of snow-white cliffs and spreading crowns of trees draws me into the atmosphere of a summer afternoon. I hardly notice the figures of wanderers who stopped just above the cliff to admire the same view as me. Turned back to the viewer, they become a personification of the attention that must be demonstrated in contact with the absolute power of nature. A woman in a red dress is pointing something to her companion who is dangerously choked over the edge of the abyss. Their companion seems to be completely absorbed in the contemplation of the vastness of the sea that opens up before him.

Caspar David Friedrich, Chalk Cliffs on Rügen, ca. 1818, Museum Oskar Reinhart am Stadtgarten, Winterthur

I am aware of symbolic and religious interpretations of this composition. According to one of them, three figures dressed in clothes: red, green, blue, would be a reference to three Christian virtues: love, hope and faith.

However, I prefer to think of this painting as a recollection of the joyful family trip that Caspar David Friedrich had with his newly married wife Caroline and his brother Christian to Rügen, the largest German island in the Baltic. So the sea the wanderers look at is the same that I visited in my childhood and to which I like to come back before the season begins. Unknowingly, I am repeating the same ritual of sinking in silence and looking beyond the horizon.

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