Like many artists, Caspar David Friedrich was affected by the events of his time: the defeat of Prussia by the forces of Napoleon (1806), the following occupation of the German lands (1810), the struggles of the Wars of Liberation (1813-1814) and their disappointing aftermath. He was also greatly influenced by the literary trends of the time, especially the concept of the Romantic hero and the cult of the heroic soldier, ideas that he was exposed to among his circle of friends. The paintings that Friedrich created between 1808 and 1821 display the tensions of the era, emphasizing the feelings of upheaval and desolation experienced in northern Germany and making a statement in favor of a united Fatherland based upon common history and exceptional heroes in a more Romantic fashion than his contemporaries. This paper examines Friedrich’s use of the motif of the hero in his works between 1808 and 1821, including the development of his nationalist ideas and his eventual dismissal of them after the end of the war.

Date of publication

Winter 12-16-2017

Document Type




Persistent identifier


Committee members

Dr. Kaia L. Magnusen, Dr. Elizabeth Lisot-Nelson, Dr. Catherine Ross, Dr. Edward Tabri


Masters in Art History