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Johann Wilhelm Meil

1733 Altenburg – 1805 Berlin

Primarily self-trained, the draftsman, illustrator, and etcher ­Johann Wilhelm Meil came from a family of Thuringian artists, and moved to Berlin in 1752 during the height of the Friederican Rococo. There Meil met the renowned sculptors Johann ­Christian Hoppenhaupt and his brother Johann Michael the Elder, for whom he made etchings after their designs for the applied arts. Soon thereafter, Meil produced etchings after his own inventions. Multi-talented, Meil also worked as a costume ­designer for the Berlin Hoftheater (court theater). Meil’s greatest skill, though, was in the field of book illustration. He took great interest in literature, and in 1756 became a member of the Berlin Montags­club (Monday Club). Its members included such leading ­Enlightenment figures as Friedrich Nicolai, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, and Moses Mendelsohn. Meil etched title pages, ­vignettes, and illustrations for works by Lessing, J. G. Sulzer, Goethe, Wieland, and other prominent authors of his time, ­images rendered in a delicate, light style inspired by the French Rococo. He became a member of the Berlin ­Academy in 1766, assuming higher positions within the ­institution in ensuing years and succeeding Chodowiecki as the director in 1801.