Thanks to the generosity of the Downing family and Vanderbilt’s History of Art department, my Thanksgiving dinner this year took place in a hotel room roughly 5,000 miles away from anyone I knew, in between a flurry of museum visits in three different German cities. At the suggestion of my honors thesis adviser, Professor Christopher Johns, I embarked on this solo journey in order to view the works of Caspar David Friedrich in their homeland, an invaluable and rewarding trip.
In the seven days I spent in Germany, I traveled to Hamburg, Berlin, and Dresden, and saw more than forty Friedrich paintings. This was crucial to the quality of my project (involving the nationalistic and anti-Napoleonic interpretations of the German painter’s works), as his pieces have a unique and complicated meaning to Germany’s people and history. Consequently, only one is located in the United States.
My working title is The Politicized Sublime: An Examination of Friedrich’s Anti-Napoleonic Landscapes. Getting the opportunity to see the artwork I had been researching for months in a location that added an extra aura of importance and weight was an incredibly cool academic experience, and one that has motivated me to pursue my project further in graduate school. If the only downside was eating take-out wurst for Thanksgiving in a foreign country, I would make that trade-off again without a second thought.
*Jalen Chang, HART and economics major, Class of 2016, was awarded a Downing grant for the fall semester 2015 and traveled to Germany to pursue his research over Thanksgiving break. Chang is also president of the Vanderbilt Baseball Club. He provided the photographs for this blog post: Jalen Chang posed in front of the Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin; and a view of “Wanderer Above a Sea of Fog” by Caspar David Friedrich in the Hamburger Kunsthalle.