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Adolph Von Menzel's Biography (Books)

Adolph Friedrich Erdmann von Menzel (December 8, 1815 - February 9, 1905) was a German artist noted for drawings, etchings, and paintings. Along with Caspar David Friedrich, he is considered one of the two most prominent German artists of the 19th century, and was the most successful artist of his era in Germany.

His popularity in his native country, owing especially to History Painting, was such that few of his major paintings left Germany, as many were quickly acquired by museums in Berlin. Menzel's graphic works and drawings were more widely disseminated; these, along with informal paintings not initially intended for display, have largely accounted for his posthumous reputation?

Although he traveled in order to find subjects for his art, to visit exhibitions, and to meet with other artists, Menzel spent most of his life in Berlin, and was, despite numerous friendships, by his own admission detached from others. It is likely that he felt socially estranged for physical reasons alone--Menzel had a large head, and stood about four foot six inches.

The paintings which were available to the public garnered recognition not only within Germany, but from the French avant-garde as well: Edgar Degas admired and copied his work, calling him "the greatest living master", and Louis Edmond Duranty wrote of his art:

"In a word, the man is everywhere independent, sincere, with sure vision, a decisive note that can sometimes be a little brutal....While being perfectly healthy he has the neurosis of truthfulness....The man who has measured with a compass the buttons on a uniform from the time of Frederick, when it is a matter of depicting a modern shoe, waistcoat, or coiffure, does not make them by approximations but totally, in their absolute form and without smallness of means. He puts there everything that is called for by the character (of the object). Free, large, and rapid in his drawing, no draftsman is as definitive as he".

Notwithstanding Menzel's professed estrangement from others, his renown entailed social obligations, and in the 1880s the poet Jules Laforgue described him as "no taller than a cuirassier-guard's boot, bedecked with pendants and orders, not missing a single one of these parties, moving among all these personages like a gnome and like the greatest enfant terrible for the chronicler." In Germany he received many honors, and in 1898 became the first painter to be admitted to the Order of the Black Eagle; by virtue of receiving the Order, Menzel was raised to the nobility, becoming "Adolph von Menzel". He was also made a member of the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Paris and the Royal Academy in London. After his death in 1905 in Berlin, his funeral arrangements were directed by the Kaiser, who walked behind his coffin.