Nov 27, 2012

Bust of a Woman, Seen from Behind

Bust of a Woman, Seen from Behind


Adolph von Menzel

(German, 1815–1905)

Graphite (carpenter's pencil), with stumping

Support: Cream(2) wove paper perimeter mounted to a false margin of cream(2) wove paper

Sheet: 41.4 x 28.9 cm (16 5/16 x 11 3/8 in.); Secondary Support: 53.3 x 39.2 cm (21 x 15 7/16 in.)

Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1994.103


Did you know?

Adolph Menzel drew continuously and had a special coat made with deep pockets to hold his sketchpad, pencils, shading stumps, and gum eraser.


Adolph Menzel left more than 5,000 drawings created during a long and successful career that spanned the 19th century. Near the end of his life, when this drawing was made, he used a carpenter's pencil--a broad, flat-pointed lead pencil made of soft graphite--and stumping (rubbing with bits of tightly rolled paper or leather) to created numerous studies of heads of models that he considered independent works of art. In this drawing of a woman seen from behind from the shoulders up, the virtuosity of Menzel's stumping creates the effect of tangible surfaces and light falling on them, especially on the woman's face and hat. While he used the width of the pencil vigorously to indicate grainy black shadows in the folds of the coat and seat back, he used the sharp point for fine lines describing hair and facial features. The immediacy of the image--drawn in close proximity and capturing her mouth slightly open--suggests Menzel's focus on a fleeting moment. He wrote of drawings such as this as "true to nature" yet without "being copied from nature with fearful exactitude."

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