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Yesterday I mentioned Caspar David Friedrich‘s painting of The Wanderer above a sea of fog in a photo critique. When I went on line today to look more carefully at the available reproductions I was sadly disappointed at the quality of the paintings available online because the original had developed so very many craze lines as to interfere with the proper visual impact. I realized it would take a lot of fussy effort to clean up the image, but I wanted to see it clean, and the only way to do that was to clean it myself.

It took all day, and a long day at that, to clean out most of the crazing, although I left some off to the right side to give some idea what the painting looks like overall before restoration. Another serious problem was the sky was too light and the back of the man and the rocks were too dark. Adjustments were necessary, which turned out to be difficult, but not too much correcting or it would interfere with the artists original intent.

The object of restoration is not to make the picture look pretty, but to make it look like the artist intended it to look, so that it produces the desired effect in the viewer. This painting is two centuries old, which means it predates almost all of our modern conveniences and ideas about what nature is and how it should be viewed. It predates the Sierra Club by a century, so it is difficult to know just what Caspar David Friedrich‘s had in mind without viewing his other other works. That gives a modern viewer a totally different picture of his conception of nature, because his was not filled with airplanes, or even trains. Instead high tech for him was sailing ships and many of his paintings are similar to this one in feel but the distant mountains in the Wanderer are replaced with tall sailing ships a mile out to sea in mist and setting sun.

Caspar David Friedrich painting The WanderThe Wander by Caspar David Friedrich, digitally restored by Charles Scamahorn

Click picture for a larger size. The rock on the right side, and some sky in the upper right still has the crazing to show the state of deterioration the entire painting has suffered. The crazing was tediously removed by hand over the rest of the painting. Ugh.
We live in a very different world than our predecessors.

[Update: 2011/12/20] I have no good reason for it, but the last few weeks square pictures have appealed to me. Partly it’s because all other rectangles are arbitrary except perhaps for the Golden Rectangle, which is claiming a particular mathematical shape is beautiful. I have developed an evolutionary concept of beauty that applies to humans peculiar needs in a natural environment. Today’s effort, isn’t complying with that theory; it’s just a squared Wander. It has a more immediate feel for me.

Caspar David Friedrich - Wanderer squaredCaspar David Friedrich – Wanderer squared