MENZEL, Adolph von
(b. 1815, Breslau, d. 1905, Berlin)


German painter, son of a headmaster who founded a lithographic press, in which Adolph worked from the age of fourteen. The family moved to Berlin in 1830, and, left orphan in 1832, Menzel had to maintain his family. In 1833-34 Adolph Menzel attended the Royal Academy of Art, where he met the wallpaper manufacturer Carl Heinrich Arnold, who would become a friend and patron.

In 1833 Sachse of Berlin published his first work, an album of pen-and-ink drawings reproduced on stone, to illustrate Goethe's little poem, "Künstlers Erdenwallen." In 1834 he joined the Younger Artists' Association. By then he was working more in oils. In 1838 he was admitted to the 'Elder Artists' Association. One year later he was commissioned to illustrate Franz Kugler's History of Frederick the Great, for which from 1839 to 1842 he produced 400 drawings, reviving at the same time the technique of engraving on wood.

In 1839 he saw some pictures by Constable in Berlin, and in the 1840s and 1850s he made a series of paintings which are very free in handling and seem to anticipate Impressionism although later he rejected the theory.

Menzel joined the Royal Academy of Art in 1853, was appointed professor and belonged to the Senate from 1875, all milestones in the career of this successful artist. He produced a great number and variety of pictures - subjects dealing with the life and achievements of Frederick the Great, and scenes of everyday life, such as In the Tuileries, The Ball Supper, and At Confession. Among the most important of these works are The Forge (1875) and The Market-place at Verona. Invited to paint The Coronation of William I. at Koenigsberg, he produced an exact representation of the ceremony without regard to the traditions of official painting.