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.
*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
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