19th c. German Art/Architecture
25 September 2017
Landscape Painting as Per Carus’s Nine Letters
Carus’ Nine Letters on Landscape Painting largely expounds upon man’s relationship with nature, and therefore the effects of landscape painting on the human state. Letter III is essential in gaining a conception of Carus’ definition of truth and whether he himself believes this truth is sufficient in landscape painting. In his thesis on landscape painting, Carus claims that “mere truth is not in itself the noblest feature or sole attraction of the painting”—stating that a painting must be able to exude the sense that its existence is a result of the creativity that stems from the human mind. It seems apparent by way…show more content… Without the element of sublimity, what would be the need for landscape art? Landscape art would simply be a duplication of what can be seen directly in nature. This is precisely Carus’ point when he asserts that “in terms of truth...the painting [itself] is infinitely inferior” (Carus p. 91).
In applying this idea to specific landscape paintings, Carus’s thesis becomes more easily understandable. Friedrich’s Two Men Looking at the Moon depicts a foreground scene in which two men are observing the moon from a nondescript mountain path. It’s monochromatic hues in shades of brown and grey suggest nightfall. Due to the lack of middle ground in this painting, the foreground contrasts directly with the on-setting night sky, which is depicted in lighter hues of brown. This contrast not only illuminates the figures in the foreground—allowing the viewer to project oneself into the figures’ experience with nature—but also suggests the converse relationship of the rational mind with the natural realm. As a result, this painting essentially embodies Carus’s theory. Not only does Friedrich truthfully capture the essence of nature, but he also allows the spectator to join in on the moment of contemplation depicted, inducing the critical sense of unity that Carus discusses in Letter III.
Another integral component Carus discusses in his thesis is the ability of a genuine work of art to contain a coherent whole, or otherwise serve as a “world in