This expressive study of a bearded man was drawn by Adolph Menzel between 1884 and 1890. The drawing can be dated to this period firmly as it is executed on the same paper; the format and style identical to those from Menzel’s drawing book of these years, which is preserved at the Berliner Kupferstichkabinett. There can be found several, other portrait studies, similar to this one. The drawings from Menzel’s sketchbooks are of an incredibly high artistic value and fascinate with their directness that has nothing mannered or artificial.
In this portrayal the long, dark beard occupies almost as much as space as the rest of the face, which exhibits a vigorous expression. Frowning, almost slightly fierce looking, with his eyebrows drawn together, the bearded man gazes to the right. Who the depicted is might be is not known, however it is known that Menzel often travelled to Southern Tirol to study the locals.
The work is in very good condition. It is mounted onto high quality parchment paper. The artist’s monogram “AM” is in the lower left. There is a thin lining on the paper, caused by sunlight. This sheet, just like the others from Menzel’s sketch books, have very small, hardly visible tears on the surface of the paper, caused by the firm use of the pencil. The overall dimensions framed are 36.5 x 30.5 cm, and unframed 12.5 x 7.5 cm. The back of the framing board is provided with the inscription (translated) “Hand Drawing by Ad. V. Menzel, received after his death from his sister Mrs. Krigar-Menzel as a gift Dr. F[…]“.The drawing is kept behind a fine, dark red matte and is framed. The original frame is in good condition with only minor traces of age and use.
Adolph von Menzel (1815-1905)
Adolph Menzel was born in Breslau as a son of a lithographer. In 1830, his family moved to Berlin, probably to offer a more adequate education for the highly talented son. Sadly, however, the father died only two years later and now the young Adolph had to take over the father’s business to provide for the family. Next to his work, the young Menzel managed to attend courses at the Berlin Art Academy, which disappointed him, however, so that he decided to study on his own. In 1839 Menzel had his first commission, an illustration of the biography of Frederic the Great, which made him well known to a broader audience.
Next to his numerous drawings, Menzel then began to create paintings, as well and received in 1861 the commission to paint the crowning portrait of Whillhelm I. Due to his increasing fame, Menzel was awarded with many honours, such as the membership of the Royal Academy of the Arts, of which he became a professor in 1856 (although he never taught there). In 1905 Menzel died and received a stately funeral by Wilhelm II. Often Menzel is described as the perfect Prussian artist which can be seen as a certain paradox to the artist’s life as the artist, who only had the height of 1.40 m, never became a soldier. Also, the artist described in his oeuvre the life of the poor as in his paintingEisenwalzwerk, 1972-75.Works by Menzel can be found in many institutions such as the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, the Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen in Dresden, the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne and the Neue Pinakothek in Munich.