The art aMONK us

By Toni Arrom Garau

Caspar David Friedrich was a disruptive German painter, born in 1774 in Greifswald. He was known for using innovative techniques in his painting, such as bigger sizes, different colour tonalities, and deep messages that he wanted to transmit to the audience.

At the National Art Gallery Museum in Berlin, there are many paintings from that artist. I would like to comment on two of them. In order to make a kind of “thesis”, about two pictures that he made between 1809 and 1810.

With a great metaphor about faith, religion, the existence of mankind .And also, using a new technique regarding size, the two paintings are “Der Mönch am Meer” and “Abtei im Eichwald”.

According to one of the main tourist guides at the museum, “Both paintings have some kind of connection. They were disruptive at the epoque due to the massive size. And also, because of the meaning that they wanted to transmit. From one hand, the immensity of the universe, and how small the human being is. And from the other, the deep message about what’s next the terrenal life.”

So that, for that reason, in a good attempt of being a ‘good’ journalist, one has to adapt the stories. And also, one has to find the best way to tell a great story. And good stories, are the ones that are unexpected. In spite of doing changes at the last minute.

Regarding the paintings, there’s a kind of theory that states a true relationship between them. More than they were painted at the same moment.

That is the following:

Monk by the Sea


The first picture, we can see a monk watching a storm. But not in a normal perspective. He watches it from a very empty place. In the middle of nothing. Just the brown sand, with some grass. With some seagulls. With a very dark sky. Clouds everywhere. A little point of light.

Abbey among Oak Trees


In the second one, we can see a group of monks that are attending a funeral. A funeral of another monk, that had died. The picture is very deep too. With very low light. Maybe at early morning.

That journalistic theory states that: “What if… The first picture is a monk that knows that he is going to die. And he observes the immensity of the world. And he is thinking about the life, in his last moments. And the second picture is the funeral of the same monk that was in the first painting?”

“I have never heard a theory like that one. That’s a good relationships between the two paintings. More than they were painted at the same epoque. And one just after the other”, said the guide, when she listened to that possible connection.

And also, at the end, there’s a little detail, the blue butterfly in the second painting, that represents the reincarnation of life. And also, it’s a good detail to know that the butterfly has got the same colour than the point of light that’s on the first painting.

Connections between paintings, from a disruptive artist, that was too advanced for the era in which he used to live. Because art is one of the best ways to portrait the human soul. And… Who knows the reasons why he decided to paint those two pictures?