Mittwoch, 10. August 2016

Max Liebermann on Adolph von Menzel

Max Liebermann and Adolph Menzel shared a complex and long acquaintanceship, which was characterized by a deep mutual appreciation of the other ones craftmanship and challenged by different notions on developments within the perceptions on art.

Max Liebermann, source: Wikipedia

Liebermann, as the later head of the Berlin secession and one of the most influential German impressionists, describes Menzel's painting process and the importance of his drawings in one of his essays on Menzel. Here are some exerpts:

In the year 1872 Menzel had seen my painting „Die Gänserupferinnen“ (the geesepluckers) at the art merchant Lepke and he let me be summoned, if I, who studied at that time at the school for fine arts in Weimar would come to Berlin had to visit him. Without his request I would have never dared to do so since visiting him in his studio was seen as a daredevilry, equal to entering a lion's cage.
He welcomed me with the words: „Your Talent might be given to you by God, I admire only the artist's diligence!“ which I thought was ment as a fatherly admonishment of the master towards the apprentice. (…)

Max Liebermann, "Die Gänserupferinnen", 1872, source: Google Arts Project

The peculiar thing about Menzel was, that the diligence of the genius didn't count for him, but the eagerness of the clockmaker, the mechanical work. He wanted to owe everything to himself alone: the work of art shouldn't step into being under his hand, it should literally be made with his hands.

I believe that no other artist's procédé was so headstrong as Menzel's. I witnessed as well the beginnings of the Iron Rolling Mill as of the Piazza d'Erbe: one horizontal line on the blank canvas indicated the horizon, then one could see vertical lines, drawn with blue or red chalk, which showed the sizes of the several figures in their very spot, and while for example in the rolling mill the wheelwork in the background, on the Piazza d'Erbe the row of houses and the air were completed and have never been touched again, the space that was ment for the figures in the foreground was painstakingly left open.
The painting was completed as soon as the canvas was covered all over with paint. 

Adolph von Menzel, "Das Eisenwalzwerk", 1875, source: Google Arts Project

This astoundingly selfconfident way of painting, that he put himself through, becomes even more stunning, if one knows that since his unfinished painting of Frederic II's speech to his generals in Leuthen he never used any Cartoon, sketch or any other preliminary work for his painting than his single drawings. He didn't paint into a painting after nature but only with help of his drawn studies, that he stuck to slavishly. I witnessed how he scratched down the two to three centimeter tall portrait of an old woman down to the canvas for six times on the Piazza d'Erbe and repainted it one time after the other, since it didn't show enough „likeness“ with the portrait on his drawing. (…) 

Adolph von Menzel, study for the iron rolling mill, carpenter's pencil on paper

Menzel's eminently correct instinct for the craftmanship within fine art led him to paint alla prima, opposite to the leading perception; this way of painting, which has been and will be used by all real masterpainters, old and new, and which has the advantage, next to the fact that it is the optimal technique for the usage of oils, consists in the fact that it comes closest to the realisation of the artist's vision by lending the sudden impulse, the immediate sensation the most adequate expression.

Adolph Menzel, "Piazza d'Erbe in Verona", 1884, source: Google Arts Project

But especially this biggest advantage of painting alla prima was lost again under Menzel's hand because instead of painting freely from memory – his memory was so strong that he could, if he forgot somebody's name during a conversation, draw the very person, to find out about who it was -
or to paint again directly from nature into the painting he strictly stuck to his drawn studies: the paintings are thus „only“ a translation of his drawings into oils, and because of that much weaker than those. Even if he was able with his gigantic skills and knowledge was able to transfer his drawings onto the canvas, he couldn't give what characterizes their beauty and why no copy can reach the quality of the original: the inspiration, which led his hand while drawing.
Where Menzel paints alla prima from nature or from memory – which is basically the same – he creates virtually something immortal.

Adolph von Menzel, study for "Piazza d'Erbe in Verona", carpenters pencil on paper

As proof: the countles pastells, gouaches, the Balcony room and the other interiors from his appartment in Ritterstrasse, the „Laying out of the fallen of the revolution of march“, the Gardens of prince Albrecht (…). All of those works, which originated casually, as recovery from the efforts from working on the big paintings and which have been appreciated by Menzel himself little if at all, are unsurpassable masterpieces. (…) They are timeless.

Adolph von Menzel's bedroom in his studio in Ritterstrasse

I skip here the many probably known anecdotes, that are circulating about his „franckness“, if it is not to be called crudeness, and I only want to mention one incident that might only be known to me, to demonstrate that he even remained his independence face to face with someone like Bismarck.
Menzel had entrusted me with 16 or 18 of his pieces, since I was appointed by the french government as juror of the admssionary panel for the world exhibition in Paris in 1889, when all of sudden a decree by Bismarck was published which prohibited all artists who were prussian officials to participate. And all of those former celebrities like Achenbach, Reinhold Begas, down to the uprising newer stars, hurried to take back their works. Except Menzel; even as a ministerial director showed up to explain to him that for him as the chancelor of the order pour le merité, it wouldn't be appropriate to participate in an exhibition in Paris that celebrates the centenary of the french revolution. Menzel replied: I am now 73 years old, I always knew what was respectable for me and I will also know it in future times.
Spoke like that and exhibited without a worry.
Dostojewski writes in one of his novels: There is no sadder time, then when we don't know whom to adore. Let's be glad, in theses sad times to have a man in Menzel, who we can adore as an artist as well as a human being.

The whole essay of Liebermann in german language can be read in
Adolph von Menzel, "Das graphische Werk"

More prestudies for Menzel's paintings are also included in
Drawings and Paintings by Adolph Menzel on which I had the honour to work as coeditor together with James Gurney.

Wikipedia article on Max Liebermann
and on Adolph von Menzel

Samstag, 26. März 2016

Menzel letters no 197, 201 and 237 to Carl Heinrich and Carl Johann Arnold

 Accompanying the memories of Carl Johann Arnold and the exciting news from Dover, that
is going to be released soon, I post here a couple of letters from Menzel to the Arnolds which highlight some of his technical approaches and teachings for Carl Johann.

Letter no 197

to Carl Heinrich Arnold in Kassel

Berlin, feb 13th, 1847

 dear old friend („Lieber Alter“ lit. „Dear old one“),

I was very happy about your letters. Especially that Carl is growing thoroughly, I want to see his winter exercises. Concerning the mentioned fox* please do ask him, wether I adviced him to do so, to begin with fine brushes, because I state to use them while finishing a piece only in rare occasions. The laudable lad surely wanted to play the virtuoso. Is the intention of the local Kunstverein** still the same matter of which you wrote to me some time ago? According to your friendly invitation I will, if I find a sujet*** (of which I am certain that I will), accomplish a sketch and, as soon as I can finish it, send there; if they agree to it, good, in the other case I will paint it occasionally for myself. You seem to believe that I have allready moved. That is not the case. I will not be able to move before the middle of March, because although the accomodation is nearly completed, the studio (Atelier) which is the main reason for the whole affair, won't be in a suitable condition up to then. Here it has become winter once again. Magnus has been shaken by a terrible cold. How he told me recently the „(old) daub“**** went for a cure to the hands of an adept man and will presumably be ready soon. Meyerheim fell heavily during the icy conditions, which might have ended out dangerously. Heavens turned it mercifully! Biermann is painting a winterlandscape right now! (about four feet high) A motive of a curchyard in Salzburg*****, the maximuschapel in the middle ground. The thing will turn out good. I now let little Carl's portrait****** that I drew in pastells during the last days of his stay and that I corrected a bit afterwards, be framed under glass, the same with his landsacpe in watercolours, that he'd endowed to my sister; both are hanging underneath each other, and can be most comfortably be shown to anybody: This is the author, and this is his work (note ChSch: see sketch in the original letter).

Kiss Carlchen cordially in my name. All the best greetings to yours, as well fom my (beloved ones). Yours Menzel [Carlchen, I advice you to draw after the old medall-heads in the evenings, in pastells, but of course at least life sized, only thus one can gain what is possible to gain from it. Above all it is very salutary for oil painting, for the perception of fleshtones. If those colours aren't available around there I will send you some. That the modell fem: did displease you more than that it pleased you does astown me only little, for, as I could only make it out of your writing, had only one hip. Live well and always be as happy as you are.]

*the fox („des bemeldten Fuchses“): referring to not so commonly used brushes out of fox's hair.

 ** intention of the Kunstverein: on the 19.4.1845 Menzel declined the suggestion of Arnold to do a painting for the Kunstverein in Kassel

*** the sujet: even before the end of May the refined oil sketch depicting the reunion of Gustav Arnold and his wife in front of the castle of Hanau had been sent off to Kassel.

**** den „Schunken“ („the old daub“): Meant here is an assumed Tizian- not from Arnold's own possession but conveyed for an aquaintance in Kassel to Berlin. Magnus' letter to Arnold is as well in Berlin (Berlin, SMB PK, ZA, NL Menzel Mappe III, no 25): He's sending „the assumed Tizian, cleaned as good as possible from the worst dirt. Unfortunately the thing is nothing more than factory work from those days.“ Allready on the 23rd of April 1844 they are speaking of an assumed Giorgione, that was sent by Arnold, comissioned to be cleaned in the name of the owner. - Like Menzel Magnus is interested in the education of the young Carl Johann Arnold and is giving advices. In his letter he is casually rendering a judgement that shouldn't remain unquoted: „Mentzelchen („li'l Menzel“) is an overly ingenious artist, but with such a gift of a talent he should do (generally) more and more condigned (work). Who will read the boring works of Frederic the Great, for which he is making such endeavours?“

***** disposition today is unknown

****** Carl's portrait: Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett catalogue no 1312 (not the more famous version, no 1723)

Letter no. 201

to Carl Johann Arnold in Kassel (23. April 1847)

Carl, dear boy, 

are you busy? Do you draw among others as I told you in the evenings after the medals? Under pretty savory lightings? I do that a lot right now*, it is very interesting. You have to try as well with coloured crayons. In the beginning it will be easiest on grey not too light paper. The main shadows are set as usual in the proper intensity with the Estompe**, the after those weaker ones still as well. Then add with fleshtoned crayons the lighter parts and (High)lights, thereafter smudge with the fingers according to the assumption of modeling, then again drawn into it with the same color the further definiteness of forms, or skin folds, the finger still helps there in different parts, to make it short: work it all through like that. Into the estomped shadows you draw into as you like with brown, but do not work everything over with it, into the deep parts eventually with black. For sundry reddish parts in cheeks or eyelids you can use according to the circumstances Rothstein or a dark red pen. However all that varies according to the Teint, more reddish or whitish etc. the ochertones are excellent for the different hair colors, but for all (except blond) you have to estomp everything throughout.
On various different things you can hit on by yourself.
Live healthy.

*I do that a lot right now: medalls delivered important models for historical figures for his illustrations on the „works of Frederic the Great“. Five pencilstudies of those are to be found in the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin.

**Estompe (french): a wiper, a pointed role made out of felt or blotting paper. Menzel used to start out as well in crayon- as in pencildrawings with wiped shadows and added onto the greyish veils more defined strokes, to define contours and forms. The now following precudere Menzel had developed by himself at this time. He created many drawings with colored crayons around 1848-1850, but as well during the following years up to 1861.

(comments by Claude Keisch and Marie Ursula Riemann-Reyer in „Adolph Menzel, Briefe Band I, 1830 – 1855)

Letter no 237 To Carl Johann Arnold in Kassel

Berl: d: 1st June 1848

beloved boy, 

your letter is making me very happy! Be furthermore busy and attentive while studying, and move within your heart what I oftimes have told you. Thus it hopefully won't be a loss that you're not yet here. Watch out that you don't ruin your hands with the Kuhfuß*, do wear thick leathergloves while exercising and standing guard.
That you do try pastells I laud a lot, however take care not to get your eyes too much used to a maybe harmonic yet in all of it's tones too dull set if it comes to landscapes. Everything that has to do with air is from the very beginning not made for this. Liquid colours are here more vital than in anything else. Rocks and single parts of plants in the foreground are rather suitable. The best thing to draw with it is maybe architecture, for example the Orangerie with the weathered balustrade and statues in the foreground.
In general I advice you to only use it as a help if time and local conditions do not allow oil studies; like back then in the chamber with game (ChSch: „Wildkammer“ - the place of a hunter where he keeps the hunted game), and in general at evenings.
Your bed, a pink shirt, yellow leather trowsers, a riding corp, the green jacket and the blue west, and some painting suppliesl et carry for you to the gallery and tackle Rubens, Rembrandt's and van Dyck's for quite a while.
If you have a thought for a composition do not omit to stick with it and work it all through. That is always the main thing!
Now do greet cordially your father, mother, sisters (as well by mine). Likewise Mr Krauskopf and all other honorable friends and aquaintances with the most cordially salut.

P.S. The Fritz (ChSch: Friederike Arnold) has presumably smeared allready the whole pppappper, and Caroline has surely destroyed the blue glas of the lid because of too much use.

* Kuhfuß: (literally „a cow's foot“) soldiers expression for the old gun of the infantery. The 19year old Carl did rather do his military service or had volunteered for the vigilante forces.

translated from: "Adolph Menzel - Briefe" by Marie Ursula Riemann-Reyher and Claude Keisch,
Deutscher Kunstverein 2007 

Freitag, 26. Februar 2016

Memories on Adolph Menzel, Carl Johann Arnold part III

This is the last part in the series of Carl Johann Arnold's memories on Adolph Menzel.

After two years of living together with Menzel I was moving into my own studio and apartment. As often as possible I was still staying with Menzel's. Mostly at the evenings or on special occasions, where it was happy and comfortable and he participated willingly in jokes and conversations. Ofttimes appointments for further excursions would be made, e.G. to Potsdam, where journeys on the water, aligned with fireworks, which he especially loved, had been undertaken.
As I approached him once again at one evening, to ask for his advice on one of my works, I brought him a new piece, it was a deck of cards wherein I had composed every single card as a picture.
He lay them out before him, remained silent for a while and then turned to me saying: „there you did something admirable!“
And later, during dinner, he raised his glass offering to call each other informally by the forename*.
The card deck later became a possession of Empress Frederick.
In the meantime Menzel's sister was married to the musician Krigar, by whom there exist some beautiful compositions of songs and who acclaimed later the title as a director of music. Also his brother Richard married pretty soon and took on the photographic business of Gustav Schauer.
To not having to break with his daily habits and not to be pulled out of his artistic activity, Menzel stayed, despite her marriage, till his death together with his sister and built together with her and her husband a community.
That Menzel was supposed to be a so called misogynist, is, how I can say from experiences, never been the case.
He lead very gladly and ofttimes throughout the whole evening conversations with ladies, who could bind him intellectually in amicable entertainment. Thus he was vividly interested in a lady which lived in the same house as them, in Ritterstraße 43, the daughter of privy councilor Schaumann, who visited the Menzels on a daily basis.

Subsequently I would like to mention a matter, which is significant for Menzel's thoroughness in his
creating and for his energy. In his works he often depicted cavalry and everything that has to do with riding. To inform himself exhaustively on the matter he decided to learn how to ride by himself. 

study of a horse by Adolph Menzel,

Since I had already organized a riding lesson together with several colleagues, Bennewitz von Löfen, Spangenberg, P. Meyerheim, Feckert and others, he decided to participate herein.
We then rode weekly on several evenings (also with music), and funny was that the small excellency always chose instead of a small horse constantly a huge one, so that his legs wouldn't reach beyond the rim of the saddle. Everything went well so far, with exception of one time, when all of a sudden a „Halt!“ was commanded and Menzel was thrown over the neck of his horse, but could get a hold of the tail of the horse which went before his and thus came back into the saddle.
For the practical usage of those studies he couldn't find time though for new commissions of a new kind approached him.
In the first place he was busy for many years with the important commission by king William I. - to create the coronation in Königsberg as a huge monumental painting, as far as I know through recommendation of the at that time crown prince Frederic. 

preliminary coloured study of the coronation painting

As a studio the saloon of the Garde-du-Corps in the royal castle was prepared for him, so that the royals and aristocrats had a smooth entrance for sittings. 


For this (painting) many portraits were necessary which he executed all in watercolors and which have later been acquired by the royal national gallery.
Although he didn't appreciate being disturbed while working I was able to educate myself while witnessing the progress of this great work.

the coronation of king William I, Adolph Menzel, 1866

From that time on he presumably did not miss any festivity at the royal court, where I saw him often standing in a reveal or behind a curtain, how he was sketching his notes after certain characters, telling me that his main work will begin when he'd return home and everyone else went to bed.

the Ballsouper, Adolph Menzel, 1878

He painted several festivities, which don't need any further explanation since they are sufficiently known.
Out of this time date the many decorations and badges, which increased suchlike throughout the following years. 

The last celebration, which I experienced together with Menzel, was the one which the association of Berlin artists arranged to celebrate his seventieth birthday. We had to wait for over two hours for his appearance, for he was, as was commonly known, always unpunctual. (…)
Toast responded to toast and Menzel didn't let the opportunity pass to clink glasses with everybody.
Thus the festivity continued in the happiest mood and lasted till the early morning.

Soon my health condition forced me to leave Berlin and I settled down in Weimar.
My now following relationship with Menzel consisted merely of frequently visits in Berlin and
an exchange of letters up until into his last years.

A great joy was for me that as well my (son) Herbert, who lived himself as a painter in Berlin, found the most cordially accommodation with them and was able to raise glasses with him on Menzel's unfortunately last birthday.

It was a coincidence that it was given to my son to portrait Menzel on the deathbed.
And thus I close with the notations of my memories on our unforgettable great master and old friend of our family.

Weimar, June 1905

* in German there is a distinction (like in french: "tu" and "vous")  to address somebody in a formel "sie" (3rd person plural) or informal "du" (2nd person singular) way.

Freitag, 19. Februar 2016

Dinosaurs in Berlin

If you like dinosaurs and Berlin than 2016 is your year to come and visit:

This year the Natural History Museum hosts two extaordinairy exhibitions.

"Tristan Otto" is one of the most complete finds of Tyrannosaurus Rex and is the only original skeleton to be shown in Europe.
Found in the Hell Creek Formation in Montana it will be on display as a longterm item on loan by the private owner.

drawing of Tristan Otto's original skull
Since February 9th T-Rex is not alone any more on his throne:

"Spinosaurus"  shows not only the first life-sized skeleton reconstuction of Spino but gives also insights about the amazing ecological system of the Kem Kem region in Morocco in the Cretacious and reveals the amazing story of spinosaurus' first discovery by Ernst Stromer von Reichenbach and the find of a second and more complete skeleton by german palaeontologist Nizar Ibrahim.

The exhibiton is provided by the National Geographic society and the university of Chicago.

skull of Carcharodontosaurus, a T-rex sized predator of cretacious North Africa

Spinosaurus aegypticus, he's the first known dinosaur which presumably lived mainly semi-aquatic
You can watch the whole amazing story of Spino's rediscovery on Nizar Ibrahim's TED talk.

Here is a link to a 45 min documentation in german language on Terra X.

The exhibition is on display till the June 12th.

Dienstag, 16. Februar 2016

world premiere of Ted Sieger's Molly Monster

Yesterday the animation feature film "Molly Monster" celebrated it's world premiere in the course of the 66th Berlinale.

picture from

Trickstudio Lutterbeck, the studio where I learned animation, is one of the producers, together with Alexandra Schatz Filmproduktion, Little Monster, Peacock Film, Sluggerfilm and Senator Film Produktion.

picture from

It was a touching experience for me to watch the first full length feature film by the studio that has "brought me up".
The directors Michael Ekblad, Matthias Bruhn and the creator of Molly, Ted Sieger as well as the script's author John Chambers show a lot of sensitiveness for their young audience and what impressed me the most was thus the dramaturgical arcs which (in my POV) reflect very much the sensibility of preschoolers.
Ted Sieger's inspiring imagination of a colourful and adorably bizarre monsterland, the successful melange of traditional animation and computergenerated objects and camera movements  as well as the score by Annette Focks make this lovable 2D animated film a great experience.

I completely loved it (and, yes! I am biased!)

Here is the trailer in french language:

learn more about Molly on MollyMonsterTV
and on Johannes Wolter's INDAC

with a thousand thanks to Richard Lutterbeck, Matthias Bruhn and Christian Asmussen!

Sonntag, 31. Januar 2016

Memories on Adolph Menzel - Carl Johann Arnold, part II

Second part of my translations of Menzel's student Carl Johann Arnold:

Memories of Carl Johann Arnold Part II:

In the next year, in 1847, it became possible for my father as chairman of the hessian Kunstverein* (*ChSch "Since the beginning of the 19th century, Kunstvereine (member based art societies with exhibitions spaces) are the most important institutions for the production, exhibition and communication of contemporary art in Germany. Today there are over 250 Kunstvereine, some of them being big exhibition spaces…" ) to obtain a bigger comission for Menzel. 
One expected to bring a big oil painting to it's execution and Menzel chose a preliminary sketch of the „Meeting of Gustav Adolf and his wife“ as a theme.

Adolph Menzel, oil study "the Meeting of Gustav Adolf and his wife“

Because the disposable money wasn't enough for a huge oilpainting and furthermore a subject from the hessian history was preferred, one eventually agreed in comissioning Menzel with a Karton („cartoon“) with lifesized figures ,which should show the entering of Sophie von Brabant with her little son in Marburg. 
On a sidenote: Menzel did buy it back later again from the Kunstverein.
The price was set to 800 Taler. Menzel agreed and arrived with a lot of prestudies in August at our place in Kassel. My father had made arrangements before his arrival, and had allready reserved a big room within our house at Wilhelmshöher Platz 4 and brought a canvas about to be stretched along the complete long side of the room.

drawing by C.J. Arnold: Menzel, working on the Kassel Karton

Before the work should begin there had to be studies been made of the territory in Marburg as well as the characteristic shwalmian(?*) (*ChSch: in German it's „schwälmisch“- a local kind of people in Hessen, here as an attribute – couldn't find a proper translation) type of peasants.

Adolph Menzel, study of a hessian peasant, 1847

 I was very delighted that Menzel took me with him, where I had to busily study with him. Above all he was fascinated by the magnificent building of the Elisabethkirche, after which he did, during very high temperatures, a drawing. Then it was the turn to draw the inside, the many grand woodcarvings, funerary monuments, sculptures, eventually the archive, to make it short, the few days that were reserved for our stay just flew by and it had to be thought about our return journey, as reluctantly as it was.

the Elisabethkirche, 1847

Statues of Elisabethkirche, 1847

Statues of Elisabethkirche, 1847

After returning to Kassel Menzel began immediately to execute the work. All necessairy costumes were gathered , as well as modells, as which the three of us siblings often had to assist as well. To not tire too much on the huge painting he also did other works inbetween and painted several portraits in pastells and oils. Thus the portrait of my father under lamplights in oils, then mine, the portraits of my two sisters and the french legation councilor v. Rothan came into being.

drawing by C.J. Arnold,: Menzel working on the portrait of Carl Heinrich Arnold

Portrait of Carl Heinrich Arnold, oil, 1847

Portrait of Carl Johann Arnold, pastells, 1847
Portrait of Caroline Arnold, pastells, 1847
Portrait of Friederike "Frtitzchen" Arnold, pastells, 1847

Because I took riding lessons during that time I had to pose for the riders in the picture and executed the several poses at the riding school. In the evenings we often went to the theatre and visited concerts. As well in our family music was played a lot, and here Menzel got to know the famous composer Louis Spohr, who delighted him through his ingenious playing on the violin. Through these muscial evenings he was inspired to create several ink drawings. Because of all these works inbetween and manyfold socialities the completion of the Karton was strongly affected, thus the initially planned eight weeks turned into the same amount of months so that Menzel had to extend his stay with us from the beginning of August 1847 till the end of March 1848, before the painting was finished. Out of this he wrote underneath a drawing that he did for my sister for Christmas: „by Menzel, who is still around“. Because I shared the room with him it also happened that I saw Menzel, when I woke up suddenly, in front of me, while he was drawing after me saying: „You just woke up five minutes too early!“
Oftentimes I watched that he quickly noted a special lighting or movement, no matter how late it allready was. Menzel was overly anxious about fire and lights and he always did walk through his room and the atelier in the dark, he examined as well the sleeping room elaborately, watching underneath the bed wether somebody was hiding there, which became a second nature to him; so much that he even lifted up clothes and towels that lay on the ground. Such a process of controlling took him quite a while during which he presumably must have been thinking on totally different things but I forcefully had to surpress myself to not burst out into loud laughter which he surely would have taken amiss. On the other hand he often responded to jokes , and thus he once drew himself into my sketchbook with him pulling faces.
As evidence for his enormous certainty in drawing it might be mentioned that he cut out lifesized heads out of paper without drawing a single stroke which then worked perfectly as silhouettes.
A painter, Professor Grimm, had finished a huge oilpainting, the „Mohrentaufe*“ (CHSCH.: * „Mohr“ - an oldfashioned word for a dark skinned african, although it originally does not have a negative meaning the notion itself is today associated with the times of colonialism and thus out of use. „Die Mohrentaufe“ means „the christening of the black african man“) and asked Menzel for his opinion. He took me with him and we stood very long in front of the painting, without Menzel saying a word. Then he suddenly asked who'd painted the oilstudy of a head that hung at a wall nearby. Grimm replied that he had painted it in Rome – Menzel then: „Please listen: The thing is excellent!“ and made his excuses without a comment on the painting.
The Karton eventually was completed and was enthusiastically accepted by the Kunstverein, the price of course wasn't in relation to the efforts so that he asked the board of directors for extra payment. My father obtained to Menzel's great joy another 400 Taler. Thus this comission found a satisfying balancing for all sides. 

the completed Kassel Karton

Menzel now returned to Berlin at the end of March, arriving during the last days of the revolution, which he depicted elaborately to my father within an eight pages long letter.
After that stormy and moving time Menzel came to rest again to start thinking on the execution of his bigger works on the life of Frederic II.
After I had studied for two years in Antwerp I came on Menzel's advice and wish at the beginning of 1853 to Berlin, to live and work together with him.

drawing by C.J. Arnold, Menzel his brother Richard and his sister Emilie in Berlin

I found him busy with a huge painting, „the battle at Hochkirch“, at the same time he worked on a commission for Ravené, a painting where Frederic II is examining a new built house and is welcomed by a family, a famous painting* (*ChSch: both were lost in WW II, in the special exhibition in the alte Nationalgalerie they show them as orginalsized b/w prints). 
Because of his very own character the working process was pretty much prolonged. When he found the modells he'd comissioned to pose for his painting in the early morning in an interesting lighting or pose he would firstly do studies or quick notes after them. It is true that Menzel did require great endeavours from his modells, often till total exhaustion, but at the same time he was very grateful. He once had a soldier sitting on a wooden modell of a horse, all of a sudden the man fainted and slided from the back of the horse to the ground, but before he did run after a glass of water Menzel quickly noted with a few strokes the (fallen) position of the soldier. Those and comparable situations might have been the origin of many exaggerated stories.
drawing by C.J.Arnold, Menzel studying a modell
Because Menzel did never leave a chance out to collect interesting studies and impressions it happened that he, as he wanted to take a footbath, painted a lifesized study of his foot and thus forgot the original purpose. (…)

a later oil sketch of Menzel's foot from 1876

In his younger years Menzel was often distressed by spasmodical blackouts, which he also mentions in a letter to father from 1836* (*ChSch: I wonder wether Menzel suffered from epilepsy, but I didn't find that mentioned in his biographies nor wether his medically decreed cure in 1861 in Bad Freienwalde has to do with increased attacks of that very phenomenon) Even later, as I witnessed it myself, such attacks occurred ore often, especially after mistakes in his diet.If possible he dissimulated them to not unsettle his siblings. One day he had to be carried home from the streets, around the corner of Jerusalemer Straße, which terrified his family members. In later years, when he had wassailed bravely under given circumstances of festivities he stayed luckily unoffended by this phenomenon. (…)

the original drawings of Menzel by Carl Johann Arnold are to be seen in the special exhibition "I Menzel" at the märkisches Museum in Berlin

the Portrait of Carl Heinrich Arnold, Menzel's sutdy of his foot as well as another oil sketch that shows Carl Johann Arnold drawing at Menzel's home can be seen in the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin

Montag, 25. Januar 2016

Memories on Adolph Menzel - Carl Johann Arnold, part I

2016 is the 200th anniversairy year of Adolph Menzel. I would thus like to take the opportunity to post a couple of translations of original german sources of letters and statements of friends and acquaintances that I did for my friend James Gurney in preparation of a book on Adolph Menzel.

I will start with the memories of Carl Johann Arnold, the son of Menzel's close friend and fosterer Carl Heinrich Arnold.

Carl Johann Arnold is one of the few art students that Menzel instructed personally and who himself became a painter.

"Gallows Humor", 1873, Carl Johann Arnold

Carl Johann Arnold

Memories of my living together with Adolph Menzel, part I

With the following I don't want nor can I follow the intention to deliver a full biography of A.Menzel, of which there already have been published a lot of encompassing ones and many will as well in future times.
I was lead to write down the below-mentioned to pass down some interesting episodes from his starting time to the posterity to redound to the characterization of his originality, there's relatively little reported from those days, as well as to adjust some exaggerations and falsehoods.
What I am writing down here shall above all be given truthful, with no frills and without own additions, only through this my notes might presumably be of a special interest.
In the Winter of 1833/34 my father met for the first time together with Adolph Menzel during an evening drawing after nature, which was organized by several Berlin artists. He pretty soon recognized him as a very talented and most ingenious young man, who gained his whole interest. After he had inquired on his financial circumstances he found out that they were of the utmost modesty.
(…here follows a short description of Menzel who's father had passed away and left him caring for the daily bread for his mother and two siblings)...)
My father then invited Menzel to visit him and to advice him with words and deeds and as well to introduce him to influential persons who might be of use to him. At that time we were living at Monbijouplatz 10 I., where father used to have a big factory for wallpapers.
At our home it was always an agile and sociably coming and going which, as I presume, attracted Menzel very much and he thus became a common and always welcomed visitor.
Especially on sundays, in the evening, when many of the then best artists and other important persons as Eduard Magnus, Schinkel, Rauch, sculptor Drake, Eduard Meyerheim, Prof. Hotho, General von Radowitz and others would gather, where then a lot of music was played and the mood was bright and harmless. In this circle Menzel was now introduced and could make new connections and acquaintances. My father did as well have a rich collection of drawings, copper engravings and etchings, among others drawings of the Russian painter von Reutern, which Menzel could study now – and of which he did many a copy. -
My father induced Menzel, who had only been drawing up to that point, to study oil painting and taught him the first handling of the technique, for he had studied two years in Paris under David and was pretty skilled himself. Menzel copied now as a start the self-portrait of Frans Hals, a broadly painted and because of that greatly suited picture, which agonised Menzel very much and it became very hard for him to stick with it. He was painting in a backroom of our living room, which was set up for him to paint, but whenever it was possible he preferred to talk to my mother or my sisters. (…Arnold describes how he once got blue (Prussian blue) paint in his beard, didn’t get it off and because of that had to shave his beard off and didn’t come painting for over two weeks, after that Menzel firstly was shagged off from oil painting and then pretty caught up with his commissions on Goethe’s “Künstlers Erdenwallen”, the “five senses” and others...)
Although the situation of Menzel had much improved within three years he still had to strive hard and had to work long till in the early morning hours. Now a sudden change took place that my father had to settle to Kassel to take over the wallpaper factory of my Grandfather, a turn that Menzel very much regretted, as his letters vitally described. He was dedicating a beautifully and deeply sensed inked drawing to us, depicting the lamenting Berolina, sitting on a Lotosflower, surrounded by singing children and a choir while angels are sending cloudbursts from heaven’s gates.
Now there’s a longer gap to my memories. I remember that my father had a vivid written correspondence with Menzel* but as a child of seven years I didn’t give too much attention to it.
I remember the great joy we had when two pictures arrived from Berlin which were Adolph Menzel, painted by Magnus, and Magnus drawn by Menzel, both as whole figures in a small format.

the painter Eduard Magnus drawn by Adolph Menzel (1841)
the young Adolph Menzel painted by Eduard Magnus (1841)

As a joyous surprise Menzel came in 1841 to visit us in Kassel which he didn’t know up to that point. Because I then was a boy of twelve years I was able to show him the surrounding and all sights of the town. The beautiful Wilhelmshöh with the Habichts-forest, where we watched wild game in the evenings, then we did make wanderings to Wilhelmsthal, an excellently conserved little castle from the rococo, which fascinated him overly. The greatest attraction of course was the Kassel painting gallery.
During this time he did some portrait drawings in pencil. Unfortunately he couldn't extend his staying with us over a span of several weeks, for in Berlin there were already new commissions and projects waiting for him, above all the famous work on Frederic II with the text by Franz Kugler. (…)
In the year of 1843 my sister visited family Menzel, on this occasion the outstanding portrait of her came into being, a lifesized Kniestück

At the same time I started to deal with painting for myself and thus Menzel dedicated more time towards me and my progress.
We had to send him a lot of studies and works by me, until he proposed to my father in 1846 to send me to him to Berlin, where I then stayed for three months and had to work diligently. He praised very little and was very hard in his criticism. We worked till late at night and thus I was oftimes close to starving and was wishing with great desire for supper. But when his sister, while she was calling us repeatedly to come to table, was standing in an interesting lightsituation there was firstly made a study after her, which again took a longer while.

This intensive working time was all of a sudden interrupted by the abrupt illness of Menzel's mother, followed after a short time by her death. Menzel was connected to his mother in deepest love and admiration and this stroke of fate got very hard on him.

In these sad days of course I couldn't stay with the Menzel's and was heartily accommodated at Professor Fritz Drake's place. To deflect them from those sad moods a bit I was quartered back after eight days, where then after a while and bit by bit a more quiet and somewhat bright atmosphere came into being. In this time of my staying with him Menzel was without intermission working on the illustrations of the works of Frederic II and the illustrations of his army. Although he did work hard during the whole day it didn't bother him to stay up late and read throughout half of the night.
One time he found a long expected book on Frederic the Great waiting for him in which he deepened so much that he didn't take off his hat and Paletot, reading until the morning dawned. 
 He came into the sleeping room when I woke up in the morning. On Christmas I returned home. 
The oilpainting “Die Störung” was exhibited for the first time ((at the) Academy). 
Adolph Menzel, "the disturbance"

To study the candle light accurately he had constructed a tiny parlour with a small piano and two little lights and as well a tiny dressed puppet. He already begun the painting in 1843, on the first sketch a young lady is walking up and down in the room, later he changed his idea into an unexpected visit in the background. (…)

*the main body of Menzel’s letters from the 1830’s/40’s is between Arnold and Menzel.

Donnerstag, 21. Januar 2016

Caspar David Friedrich paintings on display again

After three years of restauration the two most important paintings of german romanticism by Caspar David Friedrich are on display again in the alte Nationalgalerie.

Caspar David Friedrich, Selfportrait 1810
Up to seven layers of old varnish had to be removed according to supervising restaurator Kristina Mösl.
Here you see the two paintings before the restauration with their "famous" "ancient" yellow tint, especially in the Abbey in the Oakwood

But also in the Monk by the Sea

In this article by the Berliner Morgenpost you can scroll between the restaurated and the yellowed condition.

But not only the old layers of varnish were a difficulty: the paintings had even been treated with a pressing iron in 1906 to glue them to a second layer of canvas. The hot iron left damages on both paintings.

Kristina Mösl could proof during the restauration that the canvas for both paintings came from the same roll of cloth, which supports the idea that Friedrich intended them as a pair (both paintings were painted between 1808 and 1810).

Furthermore it was found out per infrared that Friedrich painted over three already layed in ships in "the Monk by the Sea" to underline the loneliness of the monk.

In a telecast by the Tagesschau there's a short glimpse of those infrared scans.

As the director of the Alte Nationalgalerie, Philipp Demandt explains:"we want to get up close to the old Caspar David Friedrich".

A small theme based exhibition accompanies the return of the two paintings and can be visited
from Tuesday-Sunday 10 A.M.- 6 P.M. thursdays 10 A.M. - 8 PM. till May 22nd,
Alte Nationalgalerie, Bodestr.1-3.

Sonntag, 17. Januar 2016

Drawing from nature with children

On Saturday I took my kids Kai (10) and Benny (7) to join me drawing with the Urban Sketchers in the cast collection of the ancient world.

I was amazed of how long they could sit still and keep focused.

bearded man, Benny

Herakles, Kai

Laokoon Group, Kai

Pankratianist, Christian

Horse, Kai

picture of Georg Weise copied by Benny