Easter Morning

Caspar David Friedrich (c1828)

A real game of two halves, this, Jeff, and a picture of subtle softness and understanding. The three women are framed by the symmetry of the naked trees as they walk their path. They face away from us, an invitation to consider them rather than look at them, and the title suggests they might be on their way to Christ’s tomb. They seem sombre, weighed down by sorrow; the bare branches, the empty landscape, and the darkened shades of the lower, earthly part of the painting all point to a bleak, numbing grief. But look at the trees – we can see shoots just beginning to appear – and the sky radiates with the brighter, tender glow of a cautious new beginning. Nature is able to reveal a cosmic truth that the protagonists can’t yet know: there is hope. The softly shining heaven asks us to seek light in darkness, and tells us that there is hope even at our lowest ebbs if we know where to look. This season is partly about the unavoidable in-between-ness of life: grief and joy, reflection and action, being and not being. You can’t paint hope itself, but here is an embodiment. The freezing cold of despair is warmed into hope by a presence we might not see, offering renewal, light, and life.