Here is a drawing with attitude:

This working drawing by Adolph Menzel (1815 – 1905) is an astonishing ballet of hand and eye. Look at the speed and clarity with which he captures the most telling details of a military coat:

Sharp realism combined with abstract design

These long, sweeping lines show Menzel’s confidence:

But mostly I like Menzel’s attitude toward this drawing. Rather than place it on a shelf to be admired, he marks it up with notes as if he were a master carpenter plying his trade. The notes are part of the artistry of the sketch:

Contrast Menzel’s empty coat with this far more famous empty robe series by pop artist Jim Dine:

Dine’s “fine art” pictures of empty robes are treated with reverence and sell at auction for over $100,000. But I have no doubt that Menzel’s working sketch is the superior work of art.


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