Carl Julius von Leypold (German, 1805–1874)
Oil on canvas
16 3/4 x 22 1/4 in. (42.5 x 6.5 cm)
Dated at lower left: 1835
Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Wolfe Fund, 2008 (2008.7)
A lone man in a fluttering black cape, boots, and blue pants walks through an autumnal, storm-swept landscape. Symbol-laden elements abound: a crumbling brick wall with an abandoned shrine, ancient boulders, a mighty birch tree whose branches and twigs form a fantastic filigree pattern over the magnificent cloudy sky. Blue mountains rise in the far distance. The image is suffused with the melancholy of autumn, both as season in nature and of the cycle of life.
The figure of the lonely wanderer in untamed nature as a personification of restless yearning was beloved by the German Romantics and featured in their paintings, novels, and poems. The composer Franz Schubert immortalized them in his "Wanderer Fantasy" (1816) and his song cycle Die Winterreise (1827). The feelings of man's loneliness and nature's transience expressed in this picture find direct parallels in the work of Caspar David Friedrich, who was a great inspiration to Leypold. Indeed, Leypold's early work, of the mid-1820s, followed Friedrich's virtuosity so closely that a group of these pictures was until recently attributed to him.