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Fir Trees in the Snow

Thomas B. Cole, MD, MPH
JAMA. 2012;308(23):2436. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.3389.
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Fir Trees in the Snow (cover), by the German landscape painter Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), frames a close grouping of evergreen trees, about a snapshot's distance from the viewer. The asymmetrical composition is balanced by the volume and spacing of the isosceles cones, and a dusting of snow on the branches catches the fading light of a winter afternoon. The work's original title was Out of the Dresden Heath, suggesting that Friedrich may have conceived the idea for this painting while walking in the woods near the city of Dresden, where he lived. By 1828, when this painting was made, much of the old-growth forest in the Dresden Heath had been harvested for timber, but a mixed evergreen and deciduous woodland was regenerating in the light, sandy soil. Metaphors of hope and renewal would have occurred naturally to Friedrich, whose approach to landscapes was contemplative and spiritual.

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Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), Fir Trees in the Snow, circa 1828, German. Oil on canvas. 31.3 × 25.4 cm. Courtesy of the Neue Pinakothek, Bayerische Staatsgemaeldesammlungen (http://www.pinakothek.de/en/neue-pinakothek), Munich, Germany. Photo credit: bpk, Berlin/Neue Pinakothek, Bayerische Staatsgemaeldesammlungen/Art Resource, New York, New York.

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