Alte Nationalgalerie

Caspar David Friedrich’s Infinite Landscapes

Painter Caspar David Friedrich (1774–1840) was the foremost artist of the German romantic movement. His mysterious, atmospheric landscapes & seascapes, which inspired awe through evocations of nature’s vastness, did much to establish the idea of the sublime — an artistic effect producing the strongest emotion the mind is capable of feeling — as a central concern of romanticism. By the time of Friedrich’s death the romantic movement had given way to realism, and his work faded into obscurity. It was revived in 1906, when the Centenary Exhibition of German Art lauded Friedrich as a painter with an extraordinary proficiency for capturing light & atmosphere, and as a pioneer of modern art.

Caspar David Friedrich: The Watzmann
The Watzmann (c. 1824)

Friedrich’s rediscovery, now 118 years ago, is the central theme of the exhibition Caspar David Friedrich — Infinite Landscapes, which is on display at the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin until 4 August. The exhibition gives an overview of his life & work and explores his process & technique, focusing on his precise study of nature and romantic imagination. In Friedrich’s landscapes of longing, with their wide skies and distant horizons, the infinity of space & time becomes perceptible. His timeless images stimulate thought & feeling, which makes them so fascinating to this day. The exhibition shows some 60 paintings and 50 drawings, including The Sea of Ice, Chalk Cliffs on Rügen, The Watzmann, and pairs such as Monk by the Sea and Abbey among Oak Trees, and Moonrise over the Sea and Solitary Tree.

Fun for Kids

The Dutch Railway Museum

Maliebaan Station in Utrecht, which opened in 1874, houses one of the finest museums in the Netherlands: the Railway Museum. The station became a museum in 1954, and since its expansion in 2003 the museum has become more of a theme park, featuring several novel train-related attractions, which have proved increasingly popular with the general public. Last year close to half a million people, mostly families with children, visited the museum. As a father of four, I greatly enjoyed taking my family to the Railway Museum, but as a train enthusiast, I am less positive about the main focus being on providing an experience that generates recurring visits rather than on the collection itself. I have seen railway museums that are much better — but not half as much fun, at least not for kids.

NS diesel-electric railcar at the Dutch Railway Museum
Blue Angel diesel-electric railcar

The museum’s main feature is, as you would expect, its collection of rolling stock, which includes the oldest preserved Dutch steam locomotive (1864) & carriage (1874), the first electric railcar (1908), chicly furnished in art-nouveau style, and the locomotive that in 1958 pulled the last scheduled steam train. My personal favourite is the Blauwe Engel (‘Blue Angel’), an elegant motor coach built in 1954 for branch-line use. Two attractions that you shouldn’t miss are The Great Discovery, which takes you back in time to the year 1839, when the first railway line in the Netherlands was opened, and Steel Monsters, a ride in the dark that isn’t about anything really, but my children totally loved it anyway. If you like model railways — and who doesn’t — February or March is the time to visit the museum, because that is when the three-day event On TraXS takes place, which is by far the best model railway exhibition in the country.

Previous Newsletter Articles

A Mansion in Dutch Classicist Style

Like any proper castle, Amerongen Castle has been destroyed & rebuilt several times. The current castle, located in the Nederrijn’s floodplain, was built between 1674 and 1684, after its precursor was burned down by French troops in 1673.

Modigliani in Stuttgart and Potsdam

Amedeo Modigliani counts among the most celebrated artists of the 20th century. An exhibition first at the State Gallery Stuttgart, then at Museum Barberini in Potsdam, presents an overview of his oeuvre, together with works by contemporaries.

Northern Ireland: Living with the Troubles

Providing just a snapshot of the conflict, the exhibition Northern Ireland: Living with the Troubles at the Imperial War Museum in London unpacks this complex chapter of history through the multiple perspectives of people who lived through the period.

An overview of all previously published articles can be found in Pinnable’s newsletter archive.