Saturday, March 19, 2011

Menzel’s Drawings

Nineteenth century German artist Adolf von Menzel (1815-1905) was a tirelessly curious artist who drew everything, from buildings to wagons to his own big toe. Here’s one of his late drawings, a study of an old woman.


“I never do drawings with a view to selling them,” he said. “As a rule I do them only as nature studies for a particular picture or as a casual thing for later use.”


His drawings often capture life on the run. “Art is a bolting horse,” he said. His pencil captured the tumultuous modern scene around him. He made many studies on location for a painting of the interior of an  iron rolling mill (link to painting). “For weeks on end from morning to evening I stood between the huge whizzing, oscillating wheels and belts with red-hot blocks, and sketched.”

“Art has kept pace with all the advancements and deviations of the development of the mind and will always keep pace with them, as artists, like mankind, are an integral part of this development.”

Quotes from Menzel by Bruckmann
Previously on GJ: Menzel: Beyond Appearances
Portrait of old lady from "The Later Work of Adolf von Menzel," by Jarno Jessen, Magazine of Art, 1902, page 49 
 Wikipedia on Menzel
Drawing of rolling mill worker from the Getty collection (which I believe incorrectly states that the drawing was not drawn on location. All the studies were done on site, according to Menzel's own letters.)

1 comment:

Christian said...

Thanks for thinking on Menzel today, James! For me he's one of the most important german realist painters.
The "flute concert of Friederich the Great in Sanssouci" painted in 1851/52 is one of my favorite paintings by him:
http://www.bilder-geschichte.de/imgsg/menzel-konzert.jpg
In a letter from 1861 he states: "I have never taken my material lightly, but never have I set myself such a task: candle light from all sides and from above."
In 1903 he wrote to an admirer of his art: "Anyway, I only painted it because of the chandelier..."
Even more intricate are his studies of family members and scenes from everyday life, many of them on display in Berlin.