A “here and there” painting.
An interior looking out to an exterior.
An insider observing an observer looking out.
According to Helmut Borsch-Supan, who reckons Friedrich’s work is full of cultural symbolism,
The figure seen from the back represents Friedrich’s wife Caroline, and the room is the studio that Friedrich used after 1820. The view extends over the River Elbe to the opposite shore, which symbolizes paradise. The cross-like shape formed by the supports dividing the window pane becomes a Christian symbol, and the dark, close interior represents the terrestrial world.
And if you go even further, to real natural symbolism -- to form expressing feeling -- we might recognise as Jay Appleton does “the importance of the immediate foreground and the ‘themes of frustrated longing, of lust for travel or escape, which [run] through romantic literature’” and through so much of western art – expressing what Appleton says is “ a ubiquitous and enduring ecological process” which is expressed here too in a poem translated from the German:
The stars were shining with golden light
as I stood alone by the window
and listened to the distant sound
of the posthorn in the still countryside.
My heart became inflamed in my body,
and I thought secretly to myself:
Ah, if only I could journey with them
into that magnificent summer night!
- J. von Eichendorff, Sensucht
In good art, you see, nothing is accidental.