When we think of the wanderer as a painterly motif, the famous painting Wanderer above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich comes to mind. This exceptional loan from the Hamburger Kunsthalle forms the starting point for a special exhibition held at the Alte Nationalgalerie, which follows this surprisingly central theme in art throughout the nineteenth century and all the way to famous works of modern art.
With Rousseau’s call to get “back to nature!” and Goethe’s Sturm und Drang poetry, wandering around 1800 became the expression of a modern awareness of life. As part of a reaction against the rapid social changes that began in the French Revolution, a new form of decelerated self- and world knowledge developed, whose presence can still be felt today.
Since the Romantic period, artists have discovered nature for them-selves, exploring it on foot and looking at it from new angles. Wandering, in art, came to stand for life’s journey, for symbolic pilgrimage. For the traveller, the self-determined journey on foot brought with it a new, intensified encounter with nature and a form of world-appropriation that was both sensual and physical.