The Sea of Ice, also known as The Wreck of Hope, is a landscape painting in the Romanticism style by German artist Caspar David Friedrich. Painted around 1823-1824, it is considered one of his most iconic works. The painting depicts the wreckage of a ship that has crashed into ice and rocks on the shore. This dark depiction is unusual for its time and reflects Friedrich’s interest in the sublime power and unpredictability of nature.
Friedrich was greatly inspired by William Edward Parry’s Arctic expeditions, despite never having visited the region himself. The Sea of Ice is a programmatic statement and resume of Friedrich’s aims and intentions as an artist. His leading proponent for German Romanticism conveyed piety to God through nature with great emotion in his paintings.
Composed mostly from elements found in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains in Saxony and Bohemia, which were rearranged by Friedrich himself in his studio creates an extraordinary image rich with symbolism. Unlike his earlier work Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog painted in 1818 which depicts man confronted by nature or “das Erhabene”, this painting shows mankind at its mercy – tiny fragments scattered among immense glaciers – providing an intense reflection on humanity’s place within a seemingly indifferent environment.