At the Beach with the Monk is an immersive virtual reality experience based on the iconic painting, The Monk by the Sea, by 19th-century German Romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840). Celebrated as one of the artist’s finest achievements, and an icon of German Romantic painting, The Monk by the Sea is among the most significant works in the collection of Berlin’s Alte Nationalgalerie. The VR experience is presented at the museum from April 5 to June 30 2019.
At the Beach with the Monk transports viewers to Caspar David Friedrich’s landscape. The experience includes quotes from the artist, who describes the setting of his painting in precise detail, highlighting the ‘barren, sandy shore’ which viewers are able to wander, just like the monk, whom viewers are also able to meet. Conveying the loneliness of the artist’s subject, the experience also provides insight into the painting’s construction, informed by the findings of a comprehensive restoration project, carried out between 2013 and 2016.
During the restoration of the painting, infrared technology allowed researchers to see beneath the surface of The Monk by the Sea, revealing pencil marks that indicate the development of Caspar David Friedrich’s composition. Among the most significant changes was the artist’s act in removing three planned sailing ships. This reflected Friedrich’s state of mind that was manifested in the painting with the sense of loneliness. Planning as such in the early stage are made visible in VR, providing viewers with insight into the artist’s creative process. Viewers are also invited to recreate the artist’s masterpiece, guided by commentary from the artist himself.
At the Beach with the Monk is a subproject of the ARTE VR series “The Master’s Vision”. The project at the Nationalgalerie was realized with the support of HTC VIVE Arts in association with Gebruder Beetz Filmproduktion.