Steps of life by Caspar David Friedrich

Steps of life by Caspar David Friedrich

In this memorable and very disturbing picture, the second name of which is “Five Ages”, depicts a corner of the coast of Pomerania, not far from Greifswald. Such rocky beaches were a favorite place for walks of local residents. Here we also see quite ordinary people – children playing with a small flag, their mother or nanny, two men. But Frederick gives a new sound to this ordinary, everyday scene. Five ships in the sea – this is undoubtedly the symbols of the inevitable end of earthly life. It is interesting that only the oldest man is watching closely the ships. His posture expresses calm

reflection and readiness to accept from destiny everything that she has prepared for him. The rest of the characters in the picture are completely absorbed in the earthly, momentary life.

Children take a flag from each other, a woman tells them something – in all likelihood, moralizing. A young man is standing with his back to the sea. His posture is the pose of a man in his prime who stands firmly on the ground. In the late masterpiece of Frederick, almost all the images that the artist has ever used have joined together – the sunset, the silhouettes of people, ships and the sea. At first glance, the picture seems to be a usual everyday scene, but for a knowledgeable viewer, she says a lot. The canvas features a rich, albeit restrained, color, inherent in the artist’s latest works. The sea in the picture is written in deep tones. It seems bottomless. Bottomless and the sky above it, and between these two abysses the ships, the creation of human hands, look particularly fragile and short-lived.

The horizon is lit by the setting sun, the symbol of death. Above the sunset, formidable purple clouds float, and above them a young month is rising, a symbol of resurrection for eternal life. The sky, shining with a mysterious mountain light, promises a quiet haven to all the ships. Ships protruding above the horizon give the impression of something illusive – this effect Friedrich achieved using gray-lilac tones. At the same time, the ships are clearly visible against the background of the light sky. Dynamism of the composition is enhanced by the silhouettes of small fishing boats approaching the shore. Small white strips transmit scallops of sea waves running to the shore.

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