Lyonel Feininger

Lyonel Feininger

Lyonel Feininger
1915, Jesuiten III (Jesuits III)
Born (1871-07-17)July 17, 1871
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died January 13, 1956(1956-01-13) (aged 84)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Nationality German-American
Known for Painting, Cartoonist
Movement Expressionism, Blaue Reiter, Die Brücke, Berlin Secession, Novembergruppe
Elected American Academy of Arts and Letters (1955)

Lyonel Charles Feininger (July 17, 1871 – January 13, 1956) was a German-American painter, and a leading exponent of Expressionism. He also worked as a caricaturist and comic strip artist. He was born and grew up in New York City, traveling to Germany at 16 to study and perfect his art. He started his career as a cartoonist in 1894 and met with much success in this area. He was also a commercial caricaturist for 20 years for magazines and newspapers in the USA and Germany. At the age of 36, he started to work as a fine artist. He also produced a large body of photographic works between 1928 and the mid 1950s, but he kept these primarily within his circle of friends. He was also a pianist and composer, with several piano compositions and fugues for organ extant.

Life and work

Lyonel Feininger, 1914, Benz VI, oil on canvas, 100 x 125 cm (39.3 x 49.2 in)
Lyonel Feininger, 1924, Gaberndorf II

Lyonel Feininger was born to German-American violinist and composer Karl Feininger and American singer Elizabeth Feininger.[1] He was born and grew up in New York City,[2] but traveled to Germany at the age of 16 in 1887[3] to study. In 1888, he moved to Berlin and studied at the Königliche Akademie Berlin under Ernst Hancke. He continued his studies at art schools in Berlin with Karl Schlabitz, and in Paris with sculptor Filippo Colarossi. He started as a caricaturist for several magazines including Harper's Round Table, Harper's Young People, Humoristische Blätter, Lustige Blätter, Das Narrenschiff, Berliner Tageblatt and Ulk.

In 1900, he met Clara Fürst, daughter of the painter Gustav Fürst. He married her in 1901, and they had two daughters. In 1905, he separated from his wife after meeting Julia Berg. He married Berg in 1908 and had several children with her.

The artist was represented with drawings at the exhibitions of the annual Berlin Secession in the years 1901 through 1903.

Feininger's career as cartoonist started in 1894. He was working for several German, French and American magazines. In February 1906, when a quarter of Chicago's population was of German descent, James Keeley, editor of The Chicago Tribune traveled to Germany to procure the services of the most popular humor artists. He recruited Feininger to illustrate two comic strips "The Kin-der-Kids" and "Wee Willie Winkie's World" for the Chicago Tribune.[1][4] The strips were noted for their fey humor and graphic experimentation. He also worked as a commercial caricaturist for 20 years for various newspapers and magazines in both the USA and Germany. Later, Art Spiegelman wrote in The New York Times Book Review, that Feininger's comics have “achieved a breathtaking formal grace unsurpassed in the history of the medium.”[4]

Feininger started working as a fine artist at the age of 36. He was a member of the Berliner Sezession in 1909, and he was associated with German expressionist groups: Die Brücke, the Novembergruppe, Gruppe 1919, the Blaue Reiter circle and Die Blaue Vier (The Blue Four). His first solo exhibit was at Sturm Gallery in Berlin, 1917.[5] When Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus in Germany in 1919, Feininger was his first faculty appointment, and became the master artist in charge of the printmaking workshop.[1][5]

Feininger Tour marker in Benz

From 1909 until 1921, Feininger spent summer vacations on the island of Usedom to recover and to get new inspiration.[1] He continued to create paintings and drawings of Benz for the rest of his life, even after returning to live in the United States. A tour of the sites appearing in the works of Feininger follows a path with markers in the ground to guide visitors.

He designed the cover for the Bauhaus 1919 manifesto: an expressionist woodcut 'cathedral'. He taught at the Bauhaus for several years. Among the students who attended his workshops were Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack (German/Australian (1893–1965), Hans Friedrich Grohs (German 1892 - 1981), and Margarete Koehler-Bittkow (German/American, 1898–1964).

When the Nazi Party came to power in 1933, the situation became unbearable for Feininger and his wife. The Nazi Party declared his work to be "degenerate."[1] They moved to America after his work was exhibited in the 'degenerate art' (Entartete Kunst) in 1936, but before the 1937 exhibition in Munich. He taught at Mills College before returning to New York.[1] He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1955.[6]

In addition to drawing, Feininger created art with painted toy figures being photographed in front of drawn backgrounds.[7]

Feininger produced a large body of photographic works between 1928 and the mid-1950s. He kept his photographic work within his circle of friends, and it was not shared with the public in his lifetime. He gave some prints away to his colleagues Walter Gropius and Alfred H. Barr, Jr..[5]

Feininger also had intermittent activity as a pianist and composer, with several piano compositions and fugues for organ extant.

His sons, Andreas Feininger and T. Lux Feininger, both became noted artists, the former as a photographer and the latter as a photographer and painter. T. Lux Feininger died July 7, 2011 at the age of 101.[8]

Major retrospective

A major retrospective exhibition of Lyonel Feininger's work, initially at the Whitney Museum of American Art during June 30-October 16, 2011, was subsequently due to run at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts during January 20–May 13, 2012. The exhibition is described as "the first in Feininger’s native country in more than forty-five years, and the first ever to include the full breadth of his art" and as "accompanied by a richly illustrated monograph with a feature essay that provides a broad overview of Feininger’s career..."[9] Many critics have argued that the artist's work was at its most mature around 1910 in works in which the power of Feininger as illustrator balance his abstract side; however, we have to consider the possibility that Feininger used cubism as a more artistically succinct tool to establish his version of the concept known as the objective correlative.

Art market

At a 2001 Christie's auction in London, Feininger's painting The Green Bridge (1909) was sold for £2.42 million.[10]

Selected works

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e
  2. ^ [2]"Lyonel Feininger (Léonell Charles Feininger) is born in New York City on July 17th. He was the first child of the violinist Karl Feininger from Durlach in Baden (South West Germany) and the American singer Elizabeth Cecilia Feininger, born Lutz, who was also of German descent. "
  3. ^ Cooper, Philip. Cubism. London: Phaidon, 1995, p. 90. ISBN 0714832502
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ a b c Muir, Laura and Nathan Timpano. Lyonel Feininger: Photographs 1928-1939.
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ NY Times Obituary
  9. ^ "Lyonel Feininger at the Edge of the World". Whitney Museum of American Art. Accessed on October 6, 2011 at:
  10. ^ Souren Melikian (June 30, 2001), Market Goes Its Own Way With Record Prices International Herald Tribune.

Further reading

  • Haskell, Barbara. Lyonel Feininger: At The Edge of the World. Exhibition Catalogue. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 2011
  • Muir, Laura and Nathan Timpano. Lyonel Feininger: Photographs, 1928-1939. Cambridge: Harvard Art Museums and Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2011
  • Nisbet, Peter. Lyonel Feininger: Drawings and Watercolors. Cambridge: Harvard Art Museums and Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2011

External links

  • Feininger retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York [3]
  • Lyonel Feininger Project
  • [4] Moeller Fine Art, New York + Berlin, world expert on Lyonel Feininger
  • The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum: Lyonel Feininger digital exhibit
  • Lyonel Feininger at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on April 15, 2015.
  • Lyonel Feininger's Photo & Gravesite
  • Available Works and Biography Galerie Ludorff, Düsseldorf, Germany
  • Lyonel Feininger papers at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art
  • Lyonel Feininger Archives at Busch-Reisinger Museum Archives, Harvard Art Museum
  • Biography