Menzel was often compared to his French contemporaries, usually in the search for a German counterpart to the French Impressionists, even perhaps for a precursor. However one-sided this view may have been, his Théâtre du Gymnase cannot be dissociated from thoughts of theater scenes by Daumier and, above all, Degas, although the latter did not even exist when Menzel painted this work. Menzel had visited Paris for the first time one year previously and ever after called it “Babel.” The notion of an excited but anonymous audience in the confusing artificial light leaves less opportunity for narrative detail than in Menzel’s later scenes of town life. But already in this work, there is no clear central focus of attention: from the actors playing a musical comedy in contemporary dress to the stalls and the boxes, everything seems to be peripheral. The transience of the motifs is in no way commensurate with the drama of the colour combination — reminiscent of Delacroix — of blue, red, and golden-yellow.


  • Title: The Théâtre du Gymnase
  • Creator: Adolph Menzel
  • Date Created: 1856
  • Physical Dimensions: w62.0 x h46.0 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Technique and material: Oil on canvas
  • Inv.-No.: A I 901
  • ISIL-No.: DE-MUS-815114
  • External link: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyrights: Text: © Prestel Verlag / Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Photo: © b p k - Photo Agency / Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Jörg P. Anders
  • Collection: Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Artist biography: After his father’s death in 1830, Menzel became the owner of a lithographic business in Berlin, where he lived and worked most of his live. As an artist, he lacked substantial artistic education, visiting the University of Arts in Berlin for only 6 months, and was mostly self-taught. In spite of this, he became the most renowned artist in 19th-century Germany. His most important works depict various historic events connected to the life of Frederick the Great, such as the Flute Concert of Frederick the Great at Sanssouci, or other events connected to Prussia.
  • Artist Place of Death: Berlin, Germany
  • Artist Place of Birth: Breslau, Poland
  • Artist Dates: 1815-12-08/1905-02-09

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