Sunday, October 2, 2016

Lyonel Feininger

Lyonel Feininger was born to German immigrants in 1871. His artistic beginnings were in music. In 1887, he was sent to Hamberg continue his musical training. After taking a drawing class, his interests changed to painting and drawing. He studied at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin and in 1892–3 at the Académie Colarossi in Paris. After school, he returned to Berlin and worked as a cartoonist for major German satirical magazines. His cartoon strips were featured in American publications as well; they appeared in Harper’s Round Table in 1884 and Chicago Sunday Tribune in 1906-7. After exposure to the French avante-garde, Feininger switched to painting. His early work often featured figures in movement seen from above. He had a subtle use of line and shape with special exaggeration and bold colors inspired by the Fauves and Berlin secessionists (Hayes). This is exemplified in Harlequins Masquerade. His previous work as a cartoonist is obvious in the paintings produced during this period of his career.
Bauernmarsch. Harlequins Masquerade, 1908

Around 1910, Feininger began to develop his own style. He began to move away from bright colors and focused on landscapes. He was heavily influenced by the French expressionist painter Robert Delaunay. Delaunay was Feininger’s first encounter with cubism and his influence was evident in Feininger’s work. His print, Paris Houses, demonstrated Feininger’s techniques which can be described as an “underlying network of precisely modulated, intersecting planes,” (Hayes). He used this technique to create space, even in areas such as the air and sky.

Paris Houses, 1920
He was then invited to teach at the Bauhaus’ printmaking workshop, where he continued to paint in addition to woodcutting. Feininger increasingly incorporated architectural motifs and implemented color. During this time, fascism was spreading across Germany. Feininger continued to teach at the Bauhaus until Hitler closed the school in 1933. Feininger’s work was featured in Hitler’s Degenerate Art show.

In 1937, Feininger moved to the US to escape Nazi persecution. He settled in New York after teaching a semester in California. He would continue to teach and paint for the rest of his life. His paintings during this time heavily focused on Manhattan architecture and seascapes, and creating space by light (Oxford Art Online). This is depicted in Manhattan, I using oil paint.
Manhattan, I, 1940
Towards the end of his career, he was elected president of the Federation of American Painters and Sculptors and became a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters before dying in 1956 at the age of 84.

Works Cited

Jeffrey R. Hayes, et al. "Feininger." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 1 Oct. 2016. <>.

"FEININGER, Lyonel." Benezit Dictionary of Artists. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 1 Oct. 2016. <>.

Feininger, Lyonel. Drawing and Watercolors. Cambridge: Harvard Art Museums, 2011. Print.

“Lyonel Feininger.” Artnet. Artnet Worldwide Corporation. Web. 29 September 2016.

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