Atmosphere, Mood, Stimmung: On a Hidden Potential of Literature

By Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht; Erik Butler | Go to book overview

HARMONY AND
RUPTURE IN THE
LIGHT OF CASPAR
DAVID FRIEDRICH

IN 1774 CASPAR DAVID FRIEDRICH was born in Greifswald close to the Nicolai Church; the house, which was situated near the beautiful buildings of the city’s university, burned down in 1901. Friedrich’s father was a soap- and candle-maker who had come to Greifswald a few years earlier from nearby Neubrandenburg. Since the nearest competition was located in Stralsund—a town that was scarcely occupied—he managed to achieve a certain level of prosperity. At the time—and until 1815—Greifswald belonged to Swedish Pomerania. The late eighteenth century was no highpoint in its history. Greifswald had some five thousand inhabitants; its houses were built in various styles that had emerged since the late Middle Ages, and there was little evidence of the classicism fashionable in the present; fewer students than before—or later—matriculated at the university; few ships sought the town’s harbor.

Friedrich must have experienced childhood as a time of painful loss and separation. His mother died in 1781, leaving behind seven children and a husband who mourned her passing too much to wed again; this was not always the case at the time, but his sons and daughters pre-

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