A Sticky Situation: The Sea of Ice

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Casper David Friedrich, Sea of Ice, 1823-24
A Sticky Situation: Peril in Painting
Curated By GARY WHITTAKER

The North Western Passage does not exist and now you know, its just shifting ice that will pin in your ship and break its hull into splinters. The towering spires of ice draw the eye to their fractured forms. Only after some time does the eye wonder to the tragedy of the broken ship. In this painting, as in the Arctic, nature is king. The entirety of the subject matter is positioned in the middle third of the painting, emphasized by the lighter color and the clouds breaking above. This is one of Friedrich's greatest works, a foreshadowing of what the German identity would become.


Before the Franco-Prussian War, Germans were perceived as sign-song romantics, and for good reason; the most notable works of art from the romance period came from German hands. Poems, fairy tales, and paintings flowed out of Germany like Panzers into France. This image of German would be forgotten soon, Bismark and his Prussian staff would transform Germany into the Regimented Militaristic Society it has the reputation of today. Fredric's work sits on the boarder, it both romances and creates the image of destruction.

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