The Saint Louis Art Museum has acquired “Sunburst in the Riesengebirge,” a landscape painting by the German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich. The museum purchased the painting Dec. 12 at auction at Sotheby’s in London for a total price of $2.75 million, including buyer’s premium. The painting will be on view in early 2019.
Paintings by Friedrich seldom come on the market. In the United States, the artist is represented in the collections of only a small number of museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art, Kimbell Art Museum, and J. Paul Getty Museum.
Acquiring a strong work by Friedrich has been a strategic priority for several decades, said Brent R. Benjamin, the Barbara B. Taylor Director of the Saint Louis Art Museum.
“As the leading German painter of the first half of the 19th century, Friedrich had an extraordinary influence on the generations of German artists who followed him,” Benjamin said. “‘Sunburst in the Riesengebirge’ will have a transformative presence as a cornerstone of the Saint Louis Art Museum’s renowned collection of modern German art.”
German painting and sculpture at the museum includes masterworks of early 20th century Expressionism and the world’s largest collection of paintings by Max Beckmann, as well as seminal works by postwar artists like Joseph Beuys, Anselm Kiefer, Sigmar Polke, and Gerhard Richter.
“Sunburst in the Riesengebirge” is unassuming in scale yet rich in the allegorical imagery that characterizes much of Friedrich’s work.
The painting likely was inspired by Friedrich’s 1810 walking tour of the Riesengebirge, or Giant Mountains, a range located along today’s border between Czech Republic and Poland. Scholars believe that the mountain hikes provided the basis for many of Friedrich’s later landscapes. However, as with much of Friedrich’s work, the painting does not depict an actual location.
Rather, “Sunburst in the Riesengebirge” is an exemplifies Friedrich’s symbolic approach to landscape painting, said Simon Kelly, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Saint Louis Art Museum.
“The painting is a beautiful representation of light, and sums up Friedrich’s approach to landscape as symbolic of the wider themes of life, death and the promise of eternity,” Kelly said.