Adolph von Menzel

Adolph Friedrich Erdmann von Menzel (Dec. 8, 1815-Feb. 9, 1905); 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.

....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—he had a large head, and stood about 4 foot 6 inches. (

Adolph Menzel’s drawing supplies accompanied him everywhere, whether on a short walk or a long journey. He was always prepared to draw. One of his overcoats had 8 pockets, each filled with sketchbooks of different sizes. On the lower left side of his coat was an especially large pocket which held a leather case with a big sketchbook, some pencils, a couple of shading stumps, and a gum eraser.

His personal motto was “Nulla dies sine linea” (”Not a day without a line”). He drew ambidextrously, alternating between the left and the right, sometimes on the same drawing.

If he was ever caught without drawing paper, he sketched on whatever was available, even a formal invitation to a court ball. Whenever he was spotted at a social event, the whispered word went abroad that “Menzel is lurking about.”

He was known to interrupt an important gathering by pulling out his sketchbook, sharpening his pencil, casting an eye around the room, and focusing on a coat, a chair or a hand. This sometimes brought the proceedings to a halt until he finished.

He preferred to draw people unawares, often catching them in unflattering moments of eating, gossiping, or dozing. Once his friend Carl Johann Arnold awoke from a nap to find the artist busily drawing his portrait. “You just woke up 5 minutes too early,” Menzel told him. (
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First Collected by

Henrik Sputnes


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