“Two Men Contemplating the Moon”
by Caspar David Friedrich
“Two Men Contemplating the Moon” by Caspar David Friedrich depicts a foreground scene of two men on a mountain path looking at the sickle of the waxing moon and the evening star.
The man on the right is wearing a green cape and beret and has a walking stick in his right hand. The man on the left is standing on the slightly higher ground.
He is leaning on his companion’s shoulder. He is slimmer, looks younger, and is wearing a green coat and cap with its strap tied under his chin.
The figures are dressed in formal garments, which also serve to signify their higher class. The moon’s night side is lit by earthshine.
The scene is framed by an uprooted oak tree on their right, whose branches reach out to those of a spruce tree on their left.
A large boulder prevents the oak from falling to the side of the mountain. Below and to the right, the tops of pine trees suggest a forest below.
The jagged branches and stark contrasts seem to create a threatening environment, but the glow of the moonlit sky lifts the mood of the painting.
The works emphasize spirituality in nature and the presence of the sublime, which are dominant themes of Friedrich.
Friedrich painted at least three versions of this scene, with one variation featuring a man and a woman.
Playwright Samuel Beckett, standing before “Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon,” said, “This was the source of Waiting for Godot, you know.”
Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon
Caspar David Friedrich
Caspar David Friedrich (1774 – 1840) was a 19th-century German Romantic landscape painter, generally considered the most important German artist of his generation.
He is best known for his allegorical landscapes. They typically feature contemplative figures silhouetted against night skies, morning mists, barren trees or Gothic ruins.
His primary interest as an artist was the contemplation of nature, and his often symbolic and anti-classical work seeks to convey a subjective, emotional response to the natural world.
Friedrich’s paintings characteristically set a human presence in diminished perspective amid expansive landscapes, reducing the figures to a scale.
The rise of Nazism in the early 1930s saw a resurgence in Friedrich’s popularity. This was followed by a sharp decline when his paintings were associated with the Nazi movement.
They were interpreted as having a nationalistic aspect, fortunately in the late 1970s that Friedrich regained his reputation as an icon of the German Romantic movement.
Two Men Contemplating the Moon
- Title: Two Men Contemplating the Moon
- German: Zwei Männer in Betrachtung des Mondes
- Artist: Caspar David Friedrich
- Medium: Oil on canvas
- Date: 1825–30
- Dimensions: Height: 34.9 cm (13.7 ″); Width: 43.8 cm (17.2 ″)
- Museum: Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET
Caspar David Friedrich
- Name: Caspar David Friedrich
- Born: 1774 – Greifswald – at the time Swedish Pomerania
- Died: 1840 – Dresden, Germany
- Nationality: German
- Notable works:
Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) ~ “Two men contemplating the Moon”
Explore the MET
MET European Paintings Collection
- “Pygmalion and Galatea” by Jean-Léon
- “Saint Jerome as Scholar” by El Greco
- “Portrait of Juan de Pareja” by Diego Velázquez
- “Camille Monet on a Garden Bench” by Claude Monet
- “View of Toledo” by El Greco
- “The Musicians” by Caravaggio
- “The Death of Socrates” by Jacques-Louis David
- “The Harvesters” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder
- “Young Woman Drawing” by Marie-Denise Villers
- “The Grand Canal, Venice” by J. M. W. Turner
- “The Houses of Parliament (Effect of Fog)” by Claude Monet
- “Madame Cézanne in a Red Dress” by Paul Cézanne
- “The Fortune Teller” by Georges de La Tour
- “The Allegory of Faith” by Johannes Vermeer
- “Garden at Sainte-Adresse” by Claude Monet
- “Wheat Field with Cypresses” by Vincent van Gogh
- “The Repast of the Lion” by Henri Rousseau
- “The Horse Fair” by Rosa Bonheur
- “Two Men Contemplating the Moon” by Caspar David Friedrich
MET Modern and Contemporary Art Collection
- “Reclining Nude” by Amedeo Modigliani
- “Improvisation 27 (Garden of Love II)” by Wassily Kandinsky
- “Jeanne Hébuterne” by Amedeo Modigliani
- “The Card Players” by Paul Cézanne
- “Bathers” by Paul Cézanne
MET Greek and Roman Art Collection
MET Egyptian Art Collection
MET Asian Art Collection
- Luohan – Yixian Glazed Ceramic Sculpture
- Pillow with Landscape Scenes – Zhang Family Workshop
- Jar with Dragon
MET Ancient Near Eastern Art Collection
- Sumerian Standing Male Worshiper
- Head of a Beardless Royal Attendant – Eunuch
- Human-Headed Winged Bull (Lamassu)
MET American Wing Collection
- “Washington Crossing the Delaware” by Emanuel Leutze
- “Portrait of Madame X” by John Singer Sargent
- “Mother and Child” by Mary Cassatt
- “Fur Traders Descending the Missouri” by George Caleb Bingham
- “The Gulf Stream” by Winslow Homer
- “The Parthenon” by Frederic Edwin Church
- “The Aegean Sea” by Frederic Edwin Church
- “Alexander Hamilton” by John Trumbull
MET Islamic Art Collection
MET Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas Collection
- Benin Ivory Mask
- African Face Mask – Kpeliye’ ‘ e
- Sican Funerary Mask – Peru
- Ceremonial Axe – Papua New Guinea
MET European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Collection
- “Hercules the Archer” by Antoine Bourdelle
- “Orpheus and Eurydice” by Auguste Rodin
- “Perseus with the Head of Medusa” by Antonio Canova
MET Medieval Art Collection
- “The Last Supper” by Ugolino di Nerio
- Plaque with the Journey to Emmaus and Noli Me Tangere
- Doorway from the Church of San Nicolò, San Gemini
MET Drawings and Prints Collection
- Album of Tournaments and Parades in Nuremberg
- “Canvassing for Votes” by William Hogarth
- “Christ and the Woman of Samaria” by Rembrandt
MET Costume Institute Collection
MET Arms and Armor Collection
MET Photograph Collection
MET Musical Instrument Collection
- Masterpieces of The Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET
- The MET Cloisters
- Met Breuer
- Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET
Ludwig van Beethoven – moonlight sonata Op. 27 No. 2
“All beginnings are hard.”
– German Proverb
Photo Credit: Caspar David Friedrich [Public domain]