The work of Adolph Menzel (1815–1905) is widely regarded as the epitome of realist art. From the very beginning of his career, he captured the beauty and horror of reality with unflinching precision, and he was a consummate master of atmosphere. A man of very short stature, Menzel was excluded from many aspects of life, and so his struggle with reality was also a struggle to assert himself. Werner Busch’s comprehensive new study sheds light on the biographical and historical events that shaped Menzel’s work and the course it took. Menzel’s paintings of the life of Frederick the Great still dominate our image of the monarch. Their modern perspective, however, neither glorified the king nor found favor with the Prussian royal family. After witnessing the horror of war in the aftermath of the Battle of Königgrätz, Menzel abandoned history painting. In Paris, he discovered the energy and bustle of the heroless metropolis; for the remainder of his career, he devoted himself to painting scenes of contemporary life. In this lavishly illustrated book, Busch examines the artist’s multifaceted oeuvre and brings the long nineteenth century into aesthetic focus.
Werner Busch was professor of art history at the Freie Universität Berlin from 1988 to 2010.
“This lavish book examines his career against the backdrop of events in 19th-century Germany, and traces a link between the artist's short stature and feelings of social exclusion.” —Apollo