1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Chodowiecki, Daniel Nicolas
CHODOWIECKI, DANIEL NICOLAS (1726–1801), German painter and engraver of Polish descent, was born at Danzig. Left an orphan at an early age, he devoted himself to the practice of miniature painting, the elements of which his father had taught him, as a means of support for himself and his mother. In 1743 he went to Berlin, where for some time he worked as clerk in an uncle’s office, practising art, however, in his leisure moments, and gaining a sort of reputation as a painter of miniatures for snuff-boxes. The Berlin Academy, attracted by a small engraving of his, entrusted to him the illustration of its yearly almanac. After designing and engraving several subjects from the story of the Seven Years’ War, Chodowiecki produced the famous “History of the Life of Jesus Christ,” a set of admirably painted miniatures, which made him at once so popular that he laid aside all occupations save those of painting and engraving. Few books were published in Prussia for some years without plate or vignette by Chodowiecki. It is not surprising, therefore, that the catalogue of his works (Berlin, 1814) should include over 3000 items, of which, however, the picture of “Jean Calas and his Family” is the only one of any reputation. He became director of the Berlin Academy in 1797. The title of the German Hogarth, which he sometimes obtained, was the effect of an admiration rather imaginative than critical, and was disclaimed by Chodowiecki himself. The illustrator of Lavater’s Essays on Physiognomy, the painter of the “Hunt the Slipper” in the Berlin museum, had indeed but one point in common with the great Englishman—the practice of representing actual life and manners. In this he showed skilful drawing and grouping, and considerable expressional power, but no tendency whatever to the use of the grotesque.
His brother Gottfried (1728–1781) and son Wilhelm (1765–1803) painted and engraved after the style of Daniel, and sometimes co-operated with him.