The Art of Wanderlust

Cody Delistraty at The Paris Review:

Wanderlust is, historically, a German idea. Wandern, meaning to hike or to roam, and lust, of course, meaning to desire, began not as a leisure activity but as a serious existential exercise of going out into nature in order to go into oneself. The Romantics believed this is where happiness and self-contentment could be found. The Germans of the eighteenth century, especially, were enamored with Italy for its natural landscapes, but German men with the time and the means for long hikes tended mostly to traverse their own country’s varied landscapes, from the Rhine Valley to the Harz Mountains to the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, which straddle the Czech Republic nearby.

At the time, hiking in Germany was akin to participating in a Parisian salon: a marker of status and intellectualism. Courbet painted himself as a trekker in The Meeting, or Bonjour Monsieur Courbet (1854) and Gauguin, in homage, also painted himself as one in Bonjour Monsieur Gauguin (1889).

more here.