Old Poplars in Winter
  • Adolph von Menzel
  • Breslau 1815 - 1905 Berlin
  • Old Poplars in Winter, 1876
  • Pencil, partly smeared, on beige paper,
  • monogramed and dated lower right: A. M. / 76
  • 206 × 140 mm
Private collection Switzerland

A year before making this drawing, Adolph von Menzel had opened the door to a new realism in German art with his painting, The Iron-Rolling Mill, which used previously scorned subject matter from the dirty world of labour. Menzel transposed this curiosity about the bizarre, the decaying, and the underside of life to his fairly rare nature studies, in which, for example, he preferred to draw trees without leaves. Their curious trunks seemed to acquire a life of their own, like fabulous creatures with many faces, stretching out their arm-like branches in appeal to all directions.

The little path shown on the present study leads the viewer’s gaze into an oppressively narrow space between the massive trunks of the bare trees, which display their knots like the scars of old age.

One ought to term this and other nature studies by Menzel portraits of nature. His drawing technique displays here as well a close juxtaposition of delicate, accentuating strokes and passages of painterly soft drawing, whose surfaces are further modelled through use of the wiper.