Caspar David Friedrich, 1823-24
The landscape of The North Sea in Moonlight is subdued by Friedrich’s standards—it is less feral and frenzied than in some of his more famous works—but nevertheless jagged, cavernous, and undoubtedly perilous. If not for the mast and bowsprit, the cutter in the foreground could be mistaken for another rugged outgrowth of the ghostly fringe. The moonlight, inhibited by cool, overcast clouds, offers only tentative relief from complete darkness.
These would make less-than-ideal sailing conditions for the moored-up vessel. But the image itself—tense, ambiguous, intimidating, and strangely peaceful. As with many of Friedrich’s paintings, it reminds the viewer that though nature can harm, it can do no wrong; it is amoral, perfectly dangerous, and, at times, disarmingly beautiful.
To live with nature, including human, without succumbing to scorn or nihilism. To run alongside it when possible; to defer to it when necessary. Always with respect, never with despair.