Adolph Von MENZEL (Breslau 1815 - Berlin 1905)

A Bearded Man Looking Down to the Left

Graphite (carpenter’s pencil) and black chalk, with stumping.
Signed with initials and dated A.M. / 91 at the lower left.
206 x 130 mm. (8 1/8 x 5 1/8 in.)


In his later years Adolph von Menzel developed an interest in depicting people at close range, with a particular emphasis on studies of heads. Meyerheim noted that at the height of his career Menzel preferred to use ordinary people as models, and would choose his subjects from a line of people that would assemble at his studio door. As one scholar has noted of these studies, of which the present sheet is an exceptionally large and fine example, ‘almost all of these drawings show ordinary people with strong individual features; they are not portraits of artists, intellectuals or members of the fashionable Berlin society who tried to intrude into the artist’s stubbornly defended privacy. The bust- or half-length portraits depict no activity. Menzel isolated his sitters from their setting and imbued them with a sense of permanence that stands in stark contrast to the movement and momentary effect captured in his earlier images.’

Menzel’s late ‘portrait’ drawings of this type were equally admired in his own lifetime. As one contemporary writer noted, ‘The best legacy among his later works are these drawings…His dominating skill is to take the great drama of gesture and facial expression by surprise and to render it in all the force of vitality.’

The first owner of the present sheet was Moritz Edler von Kuffner (1854-1939), a brewer and property developer in Vienna, who assembled a fine collection of drawings by Menzel. Such was the renown of the Menzel drawings in the Kuffner collection that at one point thirteen sheets were earmarked for acquisition by the Albertina, although all but one were eventually returned to the family in 1938, shortly before the family were forced to emigrate following the Anschluss.

Moritz Edler von Kuffner, Vienna
Thence by descent to Vera von Kuffner Eberstadt, New York.

Adolph Von MENZEL

A Bearded Man Looking Down to the Left


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