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Adolph von Menzel

Adolph von Menzel

*  1815 Breslau
† 1905 Berlin

The painter and printmaker Adolph von Menzel was born in Breslau in 1815 into a middle-class family. The fact that Menzel was raised to the peerage in 1898 attests to the great esteem in which Menzel was held as a man and an artist.
Menzel's father, Carl Erdmann Menzel, was the headmaster of a school for girls and later ran a lithographic printing press. In 1830 the family moved to Berlin, where Adolph Menuel trained in lithography in his father's business. After his father's early death in 1932, the son had to support the family and continued operating the printing workshop. In 1833-1834 Adolph Menzel attended the Berlin Art Academy, where he met Carl Heinrich Arnold, a wallpaper manufacturer who would later became a friend and patron. Menzel received his first commission as an artist from Louis Sachse, an art dealer and publisher, for a sequence of lithographs illustrating the Goethe poem "Künstlers Erdenwallen". Printmaking always enjoyed high status in Adolf von Menzel's œuvre, notably illustrations to works of literature and several biographical and historical works on Frederick the Great and his army as well as his writings. Menzel thoroughly studied the biography of that great exponent of the Enlightenment and did his utmost to ensure that his illustrations were executed with the greatest possible historical accuracy even though the scenes they represented had taken place at least a century before.
In 1853 Adolf Menzel became a member of the Royal Academy of the Arts and in 1856 he was appointed professor there. By 1872 Menzel was also an honorary member of the Munich Art Academy. Among Menzel's most important oil paintings is "Das Eisenwalzwerk" ("The Rolling-Mill", 1875) - it is regarded as the first representation in European art of an industrial motif.
In 1884 the Berlin Nationalgalerie mounted the first large retrospective of Adolf Menzel's work. An exhibition a year later in Paris attests to the recognition Menzel's work had by then attained abroad. On his 70th birthday Berlin University awarded him an honorary doctorate. He was also given the Freedom of the City in Breslau and was an honorary member of the St Petersburg Academy. Then he was given the Freedom of the City in Berlin and was made a Privy Councillor, to be addressed as "Your Excellency". Adolf von Menzel's lifetime achievement was honored by his being made a Knight of the Black Eagle and raised to the peerage. Adolph von Menzel died in Berlin in 1905.