This sheet which recently resurfaced fits neatly within a group of drawings from the mature years of the greatest of German Romantic painters. Its date, inscribed by Friedrich himself lower left, and its dimensions indicate that it belonged to a sketchbook of which fourteen drawings are still known today, dated between September 1824 and May 1828 (C. Grummt, Caspar David Friedrich. Die Zeichnungen. Das gesamte Werk, II, Munich, 2011, nos. 899-912, ill.). Six of the sheets – three studies of anchors, and three landscapes – also date from May 1828 (ibid., nos. 907-912, ill.), and the last of these, in the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen (inv. KKS1975-605; fig. 1), is also dated to the 16th of that month.
The three landscapes can all be located to the region between Dresden and Prague, not far from the spa town of Teplice (or Teplitz), which Friedrich visited in May 1828 on what he called an ‘art trip, on foot’ (‘Kunstreise, zufus’), together with a friend, August Philipp Clara (1790-1850), a painter and engraver from Saint Petersburg (K.-L. Hoch, Caspar David Friedrich. Unbekannte Dokumente seines Lebens, Dresden, 1985, pp. 113-116). At least four watercolours, dated between 9 and 14 May, which were never part of the sketchbook, also relate to the trip (Grummt, op. cit., II, nos. 929-932, ill.), while several other sheets of which the date is not entirely certain, can be associated with the trip on stylistic and topographical grounds (ibid., nos. 922, 928, ill., among others).
In the carefully built-up composition of the present drawing, the abstraction of the lower half, which consists of four horizontal colored bands, contrasts with the undulating mountains in the background, which Friedrich indicated with fine pen lines, and without any color. The roadside cross at center enlivens the relative austerity of this view, but also adds a religious dimension to it. That spiritual quality is further reinforced by Friedrich’s inscription at lower right, ‘Morgennebel’ (morning mist), which has been given the prominence of a title. Undoubtedly a precise indication of the weather conditions in which the landscape was made (or at least set up in pen), it also heightens the poetic mood of the drawing, and accentuates its symbolic meaning. Made immediately following an unspecified illness Friedrich suffered in the mid-1820s, the landscape can be understood as an accurate depiction of a site admired on a walking tour, as well as an emblem of hope and renewal of particular relevance to the artist.
Fig. 1. Caspar David Friedrich, A Bohemian landscape with a valley between mountains. Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen.