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Current time:0:00Total duration:4:46

Video transcript

we're looking at a lovely little free dress in the alter national gallery in Berlin called women at a window and like so many of Richard's paintings we see a single figure from behind this is his wife and his studio in Dresden we see her back but we don't stay there instead somehow we begin to imagine what she sees as she looks out this window and we imagine her life in what seems like a rather constricted environment and this really rather small view of the outside world and what we do see appears to be a port with some ships we see a water and a small coastline and some trees and the vast blue sky above that blue sky of course is framed by a window that does not open that's just above her with the thinnest wood framing that creates a cross and she's directly below it you do have the sense of the way in which spirituality must imbue her but she does seem as if her world is inside this room and that her only access outside is through this window you mentioned the harbor but there's a second kind of symbolism here that I think is important and that is the mast on the right that's close seems to be moving you do get the sense that the ship is passing slowly and it becomes such a perfect metaphor for her life as she watches life passed before her and the ships that she looks at will move on and she will remain where she is within this domestic environment and we wonder if she's feeling a sense of yearning for more or that perhaps she's expressing a more generalized sense of yearning and desire for meaning that we see in so many other paintings by futures there is clearly that sense of the quiet and the contemplative in this painting all of the things that we're saying are borne out in this painting through the subtlest means the sense of restriction that we're talking about is not because the room in which she is placed is small it's in fact a very large space it seems with a very high ceiling and of course these large windows that must let lots of light in it's not that it's the strictness of the geometry with which the painting is rendered Friedrich who grew up in Greece vault which was then part of Sweden and was schooled in Copenhagen initially before he went to Dusseldorf to finish his education and that northern tradition of the strictness of the geometric is really felt here the woman in contrast though is curvilinear and so she doesn't fit easily into this geometry into the rectilinear and what she's placed and the ship that seems to be passing also breaks with a purely rectilinear that mast is tilting ever so slightly to the right as if it's moving forward and so all of this feels in contrast to the perfect verticals and the perfect horizontals as that mast moves slightly to the right her body lists slightly to the left breaking that rigid geometry and like so many other paintings by Friedrich there is a real sense of symmetry and order so that we immediately feel that the artist is saying something more in these scenes that otherwise we could classify as genre scenes or ant escapes free Trish is trying to imbue them with greater meaning Friedreich's technique here is just spectacular I mean you've got this very soft rendering of the poplars Beyond and the beautiful sky that seems so translucent as if it really does go on forever and it makes the longing of the woman seem even more potent there's this wonderful linear quality look at the foreshortening of the shutter that has been opened the way in which light plays against it and it's framing its construction seems so clearly rendered and then there's these wonderful other little elements and the woman's dress for example the way it picks up a kind of interior light you see that also with the liquids that are in bottles to the right on the sill of the window it seems so warm and so softly led so much of the art of Germany in England for example at this time of the 19th century is so full of a literary narrative that is is lots of symbolism as lots of people is a very complex story Friedrich is stripping all of that away and giving us the barest invitation to fill those things in ourselves it is a Co etic invitation for us to enter into the space to enter into this woman's mind the image itself is as contemplative as her mood and we're being offered to enter into her mood not simply her activity in a way that is very much interested in the interior and her interior experience we look at her posture we look at this room and we can immediately inhabit her experience in a way that feels very genuine