“At first, we find it difficult to appreciate Friedrich’s painstakingly executed sheets.”, 1905

“A recurring strand in contemporary appraisals of Friedrich’s paintings are complaints about their illegibility, about the obscurity of the symbolic and allegorical relationships they contain. Such a response now seems baffling to us […]. [Friedrich’s] motifs are the simplest imaginable. […] The real meaning of his paintings cannot be found in the commonplace motifs themselves, but rather in the way each picture reflects a specific impression of nature through the mind of the artist. ‘Painters,’ says Friedrich, ‘apply themselves to composition, to sensorial perception, as they would call it. And does this not mean, in other words, applying themselves to the art of piecing and patching? A picture is not invented, it is instead felt [nicht erfunden, sondern empfunden].’ That is the Romantic sensibility. […]
But it is the night that he depicts most consummately. […]
Our vision has become one-sided due to the brash modern style – with all its cursoriness and swift notation, which, even in contemplation, amplifies the temperamental gesture so that it becomes overbearing. At first, we find it difficult to appreciate Friedrich’s painstakingly executed sheets. Only when we become immersed in these lovingly rendered pencil or ink details, perceiving the way which smaller or individual elements cohere and are subordinate to the larger lines, does one experience the powerful impression of a singular personality.” – Max Sauerlandt, “Caspar David Friedrich,” in Das Museum. Eine Anleitung zum Genuss der Werke bildender Kunst, by Wilhelm Spemann, edited by Richard Graul and Richard Stettiner, 1905, pp. 13–16.