The J. Paul Getty Museum

Figure Studies

Object Details


Figure Studies


Adolf von Menzel (German, 1815 - 1905)






Carpenter's pencil

Object Number:



37.9 × 26.3 cm (14 15/16 × 10 3/8 in.)

See more

See less

Object Description

In 1872 Adolf von Menzel spent several weeks in the vast smelting works in Königshütte, Upper Silesia, watching and recording German workers go about the hot, gritty work of iron production. While there he produced numerous studies for his painting The Iron Rolling Mill of 1875, which was one of the first depictions of the modern industrial worker. The careful modeling and detailing suggest that Menzel composed this drawing not on the spot but after some reflection.

Both the shifting, fractured quality of the shadows and the roughness of the carpenter's pencil enhance the sense of the worker's heavy, physical labor. The large size and powerful stance of the figure might reflect Menzel's view of the worker as an almost mythical hero, integral to the advancement and progress of modern society.

This drawing and the final painting were applauded for capturing the spirit of the age: the German people's national pride and excitement as their homeland's economy began its shift from agriculture to industry. Within a single generation Germany would become a powerful industrial state, generating wealth from coal and iron and factory production.


Private Collection (Switzerland)

- 1984

Galerie Arnoldi-Livie (Munich, Germany), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1984.

Drawings from the J. Paul Getty Museum (May 24 to August 8, 1993)
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), May 24 to August 8, 1993
Drawings from the J. Paul Getty Museum (October 29, 1993 to January 23, 1994)
  • Royal Academy of Arts (London), October 29, 1993 to January 23, 1994
Figure Drawings (December 17, 1996 to April 6, 1997)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), December 17, 1996 to April 6, 1997
Defining Modernity: European Drawings 1800-1900 (June 5 to September 9, 2007)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), June 5 to September 9, 2007
Spirit of an Age: Drawings from the Germanic World, 1770-1900 (March 29 to June 19, 2011)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 29 to June 19, 2011
Drawing: The Art of Change (October 4, 2016 to January 1, 2017)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), October 4, 2016 to January 1, 2017
Education Resources
Education Resources

Education Resource




What Can Art Tell Us about Ourselves?

Lesson in which students compare vocations in 19th-century French artworks with those they might encounter in 21st-century Los Angeles.

Visual Arts; English–Language Arts; History–Social Science


Three/Five-Part Lesson