Adolph von Menzel
Adolph von Menzel
Head Studies, ca. 1882-1884
Crayon on wove paper
12.7 x 20.3 cm (5 x 8 inches)
Gift of Mrs. Gustav Radeke 28.114
(November 12, 2010 – June 6, 2011)
For his large and crowded historical and genre paintings, Adolph Menzel worked out the pose of each figure through numerous small sketches. In this case, he ultimately chose the central pose, with the woman’s half-bare arm dynamically extended, casting her as a fruit vendor within the bustling market square of Verona, Italy. The artist created these study drawings during three separate trips to Verona within the five-year evolution of the painting, employing local Italians as his models. For Menzel, the value in working with genuine Verona models was not only accuracy in the depiction of their picturesque costumes, but, as we see in this drawing, his determination to capture elements of personality, character, and gesture specific to that time and place.(February 3 –July 8, 2012)
Adolph Menzel first visited Italy very late in his career, traveling to Verona three times in the early 1880s and making the city’s bustling market square the subject of his final large-scale genre painting. He worked out each figure and element of its crowded scene through endless figure-study drawings, including this one. Employing local Italians as his models whenever possible, Menzel did not emphasize their exotic and picturesque costumes as had earlier painters of Italian peasant subjects. Instead, as this drawing shows, his chief concern was capturing the personality, character, and gestures of his models and building a human connection that transcends borders of nationality, class, and culture.(July 28 –November 26, 2006)
Adolph von Menzel was one of the most respected German realist artists of the 19th century. A keen and close observer, he recorded his surroundings and acquaintances in thousands of drawings. In 1872, he spent several weeks at the vast smelting works in Könighshütte, Upper Silesia, making drawings of the iron-production process and the townspeople. This sketch may date from that period. Menzel’s socially oriented imagery and his masterful drawing technique were important influences on Kollwitz.
Crawford, Alexander Mann III, “Pilgrims of Beauty: Art and Inspiration in 19th-Century Italy, February 3-July 8, 2012,” Exhibition Notes (Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design) 38 (Spring 2012).