Adolph Friedrich Erdmann von Menzel was a Realist painter, draughtsman, illustrator, printmaker and teacher. He was the son of the teacher and lithographer Carl Erdmann Menzel (d. 1832). His sister Emilie married Hermann Krigar, the Königliche Musikdirektor.
Menzel began his career as an apprentice in his father's shop. In 1833 he studied briefly at the Königliche Akademie der Künste. In 1849 he began a series of large scale oil paintings relating to the reign of Frederick the Great. He went on to paint a large number of carefully researched works chronicling Prussian history. He also painted portraits, intimate genre scenes, religious ceremonies and industrial landscapes, becoming one of Germany's foremost Realists. In 1852 he joined the Tunnel über der Spree, a literary association in Berlin, and in 1853 he became a member of the Königliche Akademie der Künste in Berlin.
By the 1880s Menzel had established an international reputation. He exhibited in Britain between 1882 and 1899 at the Grosvenor Gallery, New English Art Club and Royal Water Colour Society. He was also invited to exhibit with the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, which formed with JW as its President in 1898. A retrospective exhibition of his work was held in London in 1903.
Bénézit, E., Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, 8 vols, Paris, 1956-61; Johnson, J., and A. Gruetzner, Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940, Woodbridge, 1980; 'Adolf Menzel', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, Oxford, www.groveart.com (accessed 18 February 2004).