Discover the genius of Caspar David Friedrich...

Story by Jack Foley

A MAJOR new exhibition featuring the undisputed genius of artist Caspar David Friedrich is now showing at the Hermitage Rooms at Somerset House, having been brought to the capital from the State Hermitage Museum's collection in St Petersburg, together with work by his German contemporaries.

The exhibition, which runs until August 28, showcases 12 of the artist's paintings and form a rare opportunity to see the work of one of the fathers of Symbolist painting.

Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) was the leading artist of the German Romantic movement, notable especially for his symbolic and atmospheric treatment of landscape. Regrettably, however, he is almost totally unrepresented in British public collections.

It is perhaps fitting, therefore, that this exhibition marks the 150th year of the opening of the New Hermitage in 1852, which marked the culmination of Tsar Nicholas I's reign. The richness of the Hermitage's German collection is due to the enthusiasm of Nicholas and his wife, Alexandra, sister of Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia. This exhibition and accompanying catalogue will explore this remarkable patronage that makes Nicholas I one of the outstanding formative influences on the character of the Hermitage collection.

As well as the main focus of Friedrich's work the exhibition will include a series of gouaches by Adolph von Menzel (1815-1905) commissioned for Alexandra by her brother Friedrich Wilhelm, paintings by Friedrich Johann Overbeck (1789-1869), Joseph Anton Koch (1768-1839) and Leo von Klenze (1784-1864) the architect of the New Hermitage in St Petersburg.

The paintings of Friedrich have largely been hidden away from the public eye in Russia after being acquired by successive tsars. Yet his work is notable for the way in which it imbues apparently simple images such as the moonrise over the sea (pictured above) with a quiet intensity.

His work was such that Wordsworth felt compelled to write about the magical 'light that never was, on land or sea'.

How to get to the Hermitage Rooms at Somerset House:

Somerset House can be entered on foot from Victoria Embankment, Waterloo Bridge (via a new footbridge link), or from the Strand.
Nearest mainline rail stations: Charing Cross, Waterloo, Blackfriars
Nearest underground stations: Temple (except Sundays), Covent Garden, Charing Cross and Embankment
Buses to the Strand: 6, 9, 11, 13, 15, 23, 77a, 91, 176