Ernst Fries (born June 22, 1801 in Heidelberg, Kurpfalz, dead October 11, 1833 in Karlsruhe, Grand Duchy of Baden) was a German landscape painter in the transition from Romanticism to realism. He was buried in his native town of Heidelberg. His brother, Bernhard Fries, was a landscape painter of note.
Ernst Fries was born in Heidelberg as the son of the banker, a painter of Färberkrapp and a painting collector Christian Adam Fries. His father’s love for art and the well-being of his family enabled him to have an artistic education and financially free painting and travel. His two brothers, Wilhelm and Bernhard Fries, almost twenty years later, became painters.
From 1810 onwards, Ernst Fries received lessons with Karl Philipp Fohr and Carl Rottmann from Friedrich Rottmann, father of Carl Rottmann, “Universitätszeichenmeister” in Heidelberg. From 1815 Ernst Fries received lessons from Karl Kuntz in Karlsruhe. In 1816 he continued his studies in Munich. In 1818 Fries came to Darmstadt, where he studied with Georg Moller in perspective and architectural drawing.
Fries turned more and more to the landscape painting with the years. 1820/21 he studied at the Munich Academy. Ernst Fries visited the Rhineland, Tyrol and Salzburg. From 1823 to 1827 he went on the classical study trip to Italy. After his return he lived in Munich, but returned to Karlsruhe in 1831, near his home in Heidelberg, where he had been appointed Grand Duke of Baden.
Ernst Fries died in Karlsruhe in 1833 by suicide. Its present tomb is a synthetic resin copy, replacing the decaying original sandstone gravel. It shows an antiquated sarcophagus in the form of a house, reminiscent of the tomb monuments of Jean Jacques Rousseau.
In his Roman period, Fries, together with various friends of art, undertook artistically immensely successful journeys, which made him a good connoisseur of the closer and wider surroundings of Rome and southern Italy. Here his art and his extraordinary colouristic talents came to light. His Italian landscapes are characterized by a poetic conception of nature and a stylized treatment of their forms, detailed in detail, of warm, powerful, harmonious color. They seem calm, and are largely free of romantic pathos. This and the use of pale colors in a loose, liquid application indicates the beginning realism in landscape painting.
The works of the early deceased, oil paintings, watercolors, drawings and prints are among the best of the German art of the early 19th century. Together with Carl Rottmann and Karl Philipp Fohr, Ernst Fries formed the picturesque center of Heidelberg’s romanticism. A rich collection of drawings, sketchbooks and engravings is in the private possession of a descendant in Germany. His paintings are represented in various museums, e.g. The large painting galleries and graphic collections Hamburg, Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig, Frankfurt, Darmstadt, Karlsruhe, Schweinfurt Museum Georg Schäfer, Munich and the Museum Oskar Reinhart in Winterthur. The Kurpfälzische Museum in Heidelberg has the most comprehensive collection of works by Ernst Fries. In 1927, 1972 and 2001/2002 large special exhibitions took place there.