Menzel's Realism: Art and Embodiment in Nineteenth-Century Berlin

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Adolph Menzel was one of the most important German artists of the nineteenth century, yet he is scarcely known outside his native land. In this book a leading art historian contends that Menzel deserves to be recognized not only as one of the greatest painters and draftsmen of his century but also as a master realist whose work engages profoundly with an extraordinary range of issues - artistic, scientific, philosophical, social. Michael Fried has written the first book in English to explore Menzel's large and fascinating oeuvre, and in so doing has made the artist's stupendous achievement accessible to a wide audience at last.
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Editorial Reviews

Art & Auction
[A] passionate and persuasive defense of the artist. . . . [by] of our most inquisitive and provocative art historians.
Publishers Weekly
This terrific study by Johns Hopkins Humanities professor Fried is, in effect, two books, both of enormous importance and value. The first is a pioneering and thorough (if idiosyncratic) critical biography of Adolf Menzel (1815-1905), a great 19th-century realist painter still too little-known outside of his native Germany. The second is the present culmination of Fried's hugely ambitious attempt, begun with 1988's Absorption and Theatricality: Painting and the Beholder in the Age of Diderot, to rewrite the history of art since the Enlightenment. While the ultimate success or failure of Fried's larger project (previous volumes have dealt with such artists as Courbet and Eakins) will undoubtedly be a matter of debate for decades to come, its sweeping scale and conceptual daring give this volume an unexpected polemical intensity. Against the primarily optical drift of Impressionism and the criticism it engendered-the privileging of isolated transcendent visual moments, or "holistic act(s) of seeing"-Fried posits an art of embodiment, in which the artist constructs images reflecting not only the other senses, but the movement of the subject through time and space. Menzel's vast oeuvre and broad range of treatment and subject have worked against his acceptance into the mainstream canon, but his career is given convincingly coherent shape not only by Fried's inspired close readings of individual paintings and drawings (beautifully reproduced in 70 color and 100 b&w illustrations), but by his meticulous unraveling of the artist's relationships with the intellectual currents of 19th-century Berlin. The richly allusive aesthetic writings of Soren Kierkegaard, for example, the Danish philosopher who was a contemporary of Menzel's, are brought forward with rare intelligence and appropriateness. Menzel himself is a compelling figure-very small in stature, and seized with great ambition both as artist and professional man. Fried shows him bringing to the drawing of a pair of binoculars the same clarity of purpose as he does to a domestic interior or a huge history painting. Menzel's voracious engagement with the world is both contextualized and shared by Fried, who at one point, writing about his subject's magisterial sketch of a bicycle, confesses his wish to reach into the drawing and ring it. It is precisely this kind of passionate, intimate and informed advocacy that makes Menzel's Realism not only a great work by a critic at the top of his game, but a stirring humanist document. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Books, articles, and exhibition catalogs on French and English realist painters abound, but, until recently, little attention was paid to German realist Adolph Menzel. This title, the second comprehensive study of this underrated artist, is an in-depth look at his biography, philosophy, and work. Fried (humanities, Johns Hopkins Univ.) repeats most of the images from the 1996 exhibition catalog, Adolph Menzel 1805-1905: Between Romanticism and Impressionism (also published by Yale), but he provides new insights about the artist's life, new commentaries on some of his works, and discussions of his innovations and influence. Especially interesting are the comparisons between Menzel and fellow realist artists Courbet and Eakins. The analysis of Menzel's fascination with prosthetics and the body is also insightful. The reproductions (70 color, 100 black-and-white) are high quality and the detailed notes at the end of the book are helpful as is the chronology of milestones in Menzel's life. Recommended for academic libraries and larger public libraries with European art titles.-Jennifer Mayer, Univ. of Wyoming Libs., Laramie Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300092196
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 328
  • Product dimensions: 8.20 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Two Bookcases 1
2 "Who is Menzel?" 5
3 An Art of Embodiment: I 19
4 An Aesthetics of Empathy 35
5 An Art of Embodiment: II 41
6 Menzel and the "Autonomization of Sight" 59
7 The "Private" Pictures and Some Others 75
8 Menzel with Courbet and Eakins 109
9 The French Response to Menzel: Edmond Duranty 125
10 Time and the Everyday; Menzel and Kierkegaard's Either/Or; with a Postscript on Fontane's Effi Briest 141
11 Some Self-Portraits 167
12 Menzel's "Real Allegory" 185
13 The Later Menzel 207
14 "The Disenchantment of the World"; Walter Benjamin on Traces 231
15 Conclusion: Menzel's Realism 247
Coda: Brickwork 259
Notes 266
Chronology 300
Photograph Credits 304
Index 305
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