Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Happy Birthday, Adolph Menzel


Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the German artist Adolph Menzel.

Adolph Menzel’s drawing supplies accompanied him everywhere, whether on a short walk or a long journey. He was always prepared to draw. One of his overcoats had eight pockets, each filled with sketchbooks of different sizes. On the lower left side of his coat was an especially large pocket which held a leather case with a big sketchbook, some pencils, a couple of shading stumps, and a gum eraser.

His personal motto was “Nulla dies sine linea” (”Not a day without a line”). He drew ambidextrously, alternating between the left and the right, sometimes on the same drawing. If he was ever caught without drawing paper, he sketched on whatever was available, even a formal invitation to a court ball. Whenever he was spotted at a social event, the whispered word went abroad that “Menzel is lurking about.”

He was known to interrupt an important gathering by pulling out his sketchbook, sharpening his pencil, casting an eye around the room, and focusing on a coat, a chair, or a hand. This sometimes brought the proceedings to a halt until he finished. He preferred to draw people unawares, often catching them in unflattering moments of eating, gossiping, or dozing. Once his friend Carl Johann Arnold awoke from a nap to find the artist busily drawing his portrait. “You just woke up five minutes too early,” Menzel told him.

The above teaser excerpt is taken from an introduction that I wrote for a book on Menzel's Drawings and Paintings that will be coming out next year. About that, more later. But for now, There's an exhibition at the Stiftung Stadtmuseum in Berlin to mark the occasion.

If you do a sketch today, do it in honor of Mr. Menzel. It's always good to have his ghost on your side.
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Adolph Menzel on Wikipedia

4 comments:

gyrusdentus said...

Menzel is one of the best examples how drawing translates to painting.

He started oil painting really late and ,yet, became very good at it.

(I also like his earnest facial expression that he displays on most of his photographs)
True legend.

S. Stipick said...

An inspiring man and "Nulla Dies Sine Linea" (along with Lathe Pathos) now adornes the cover pages of my sketchbook. Thanks for this fine post!

Allen Garns said...

Thanks for the good post. Menzel is such an inspiring artist. I look forward to the book on his drawings! Keep us informed.

Karen Robinson said...

Thank you for this very inspiring post. Just what I needed to read tonight.