(Breslau 1815 - Berlin 1905)
Coffee Time in Kissingen (Kaffeezeit in Kissingen)
Signed and dated Menzel/ 86 at the lower right.
116 x 184 mm. (4 5/8 x 7 1/4 in.)
The Franconian spa town of Bad Kissingen, near Würzburg, was frequented by Menzel’s sister Emilie Krigar-Menzel and her family, and the artist often accompanied them there. He spent much of his time in Kissingen making drawings of the surroundings as well as the visitors to the spa. As has been noted of the artist, ‘In his old age he seems to have appreciated the bourgeois tranquillity of the spa and a number of drawings as well as numerous gouaches show that the place provided a constant stream of subjects.’ Menzel often stayed at the Villa Hailmann at Kurhausstraße 3 (today Martin-Luther-Straße 9) in Kissingen, and from the window of one of the rooms could look down onto the spa garden with its fountain. It was this view that the artist recorded in another small gouache, of similar dimensions to the present sheet and dated the previous year, of a Lady Walking by a Fountain in the Kissingen Spa Garden, today in the collection of the Muzeum Narodowe in Warsaw.
Although Menzel had first painted a genre subject set in Kissingen in a watercolour of 1874, it was not until the following decade that he produced several small-format gouaches of subjects in the spa town, of which this delightful Coffee Time in Kissingen of 1886 is a very fine example. Works such as the present sheet, writes Marie Ursula Riemann-Reyher, ‘suggest more or less comic behaviour, in a convincing image of bourgeois life in the spa town. Menzel is rarely ironic but, rather, his eye is sharpened by a critical faculty of differentiation which has no wish to judge, but to find the characteristic trait which makes the result so eloquent.’ Like his Parisian city scenes or his paintings of court balls, Menzel’s Kissingen gouaches, despite their generally small scale, are often crowded with figures and full of anecdotal detail. Menzel here captures something of the lively bustle of the spa town, with the artist an amused observer as a young boy attempts to pick up a struggling baby and a man is confronted by a dog tugging at its leash.
The first owner of this small gouache was the eminent Hamburg businessman and collector Erdwin Amsinck (1826-1897). Working with the help and advice of the art critic Emil Heilbut, Amsinck assembled a fine collection of contemporary French and German art, which included three small oil paintings and two gouaches by Adolph Menzel. In 1921, almost a quarter of a century after Amsinck’s death, his widow Antonie presented the collection of over 120 paintings to the Hamburger Kunsthalle. Four years later, however, this small gouache was one of eight works deaccessioned by the Kunsthalle and given, together with 40,500 Marks in cash, to the Berlin dealer Karl Haberstock, in exchange for paintings by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and Bernardo Bellotto.
Ludwig Erdwin Amsinck, Hamburg
By descent to his wife, Marie Helene Antonie Amsinck, Hamburg
Bequeathed by her to the Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, in 1921 (Inv. 2458)
Acquired from the museum by exchange by Karl Haberstock, Berlin, in 1925
Wilhelm Girardet (Junior), Essen, in 1955
Anonymous sale, Cologne, Kunsthaus Lempertz, 30 November 1975, lot 495
Private collection, Switzerland
Anonymous sale, London, Christie’s, 6 February 2006, lot 4
Katrin Bellinger, London
Acquired from her by a private collector in 2009
Private collection, London.