Description & Technical information

Together with his widowed sister and her family, Menzel made annual summer visits to the spa town of Bad Kissingen, near Würzburg in Franconia, in the 1880’s and 1890’s. While he rarely took the baths or waters himself, he found in Kissingen numerous subjects that captured his attention, and these resulted in a series of small gouache paintings of genre scenes dating from between 1884 and 1893. This drawing is a study for one of the earliest of these small gouaches, Kurgäste am Wärmekessel in Kissingen (Spa Guests at the Warm Kettle in Kissingen), depicting people drinking warm mineral water served by a vendor. Painted in 1884, the small gouache was last recorded in a private collection in Berlin in 1905 and is now lost. Another study for the same figure is found in a sketchbook used by Menzel between 1884 and 1892 and now in the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin. A preparatory drawing for another figure in the gouache Kurgäste am Wärmekessel in Kissingen, depicting a woman drinking, was in a private collection in Hamburg in 1982.

The use of a soft carpenter’s pencil, which allowed the artist to modulate the dark tones in his drawings, is a typical feature of Menzel’s drawings in the 1880’s and 1890’s. Before beginning a painting Menzel would make many separate studies of individual figures or objects, although he only rarely produced compositional sketches. As his fellow artist Max Liebermann recalled of Menzel, he ‘made no cartoon, no sketch or any other preparatory work for his painting besides his drawings. Likewise, he never painted after nature in his canvas but only with the aid of his drawn studies.’

Date:  October 1884
Period:  1850-1900, 19th century
Origin:  Germany
Medium: Graphite, Stumping
Signature: Signed with initials and dated A.M. / Oct. 84 at the lower right.

Dimensions: 22.6 x 14.7 cm (8⁷/₈ x 5³/₄ inches)
Provenance: Private collection, in 1976
Joey and Toby Tanenbaum, Toronto
Anonymous sale, New York, Sotheby’s, 12 October 1994, lot 326
Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, London, in 1995.
Literature: Heidi Ebertshaüser, Adolph von Menzel: Das graphische werk, Munich, 1976, Vol.II, p.1192; ‘Round the Galleries: A selection of current exhibitions and works of art on the market’, Apollo, July 1995, p.69.
Exhibitions: London, Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, Nineteenth Century Drawings, 1995, no.18 (as Taking the Waters).
Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints