Lyonel Feininger

Lyonel Charles Adrian Feininger (* 17 July 1871 in New York; † 13 January 1956 ibid.) was a painter and caricaturist of German-American descent.

Lyonel Feininger's artistic career

Lyonel Feininger took drawing lessons at the Hamburg Gewerbeschule at the age of 16. A year later, in 1888, he was accepted at the Royal Academy of Arts in Berlin, where he attended Ernst Hancke's painting class. From 1891 he continued his studies at the private art school of the painter Adolf Schlabitz.

Between 1892 and 1909 Feininger travelled extensively and spent time in Rome, Paris and London, among other places. At the same time, he published caricatures in various German, French and US newspapers and magazines. Based on his long time as a caricaturist, the artist developed a very distinctive painting style.

The Berlin Years of Lyonel Feininger

In 1901 the artist married Clara Fürst, with whom he had two daughters. Only four years later, after his acquaintance with Julia Berg, the marriage was divorced again. In 1906, Feininger and Berg had a son together. Two years later the couple married. The family settled in Berlin, where the artist joined the artists' group "Berliner Secession" in 1909. In 1911, several of Feininger's paintings were exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Indépendants ("Salon of Independent Artists") in Paris. There Feininger found his actual artistic form through his encounter with the works of the Cubists. Figurative elements were almost completely banished from his motif pool. From now on, the city dominated as a pictorial theme.

Feininger's first solo exhibition opened on 2 September 1917 at the gallery "Der Sturm" in Berlin, showing more than 100 paintings and other works.

Lyonel Feininger at the Bauhaus

In May 1919, Lyonel Feininger was one of the first masters to be appointed by Walter Gropius to the State Bauhaus in Weimar, where he was master printer from 1919 to 1925. With the well-known title page of the Bauhaus manifesto, the woodcut "Cathedral of Socialism", Feininger succeeded in symbolising the founding idea of the Bauhaus, the unity of craft and art.
Especially during and after the First World War, Feininger regarded the church tower as a symbol of hope and peace. The artist negated perspective space in his works and assembled motifs from cubic, nested and prismatically broken forms that lend the works an inner monumentality. By appropriating Delaunay's theory of colour, his motifs are always characterised by a light transparency flooded with light. In the 1920s, depictions of coastal landscapes antipodally took their place alongside urban landscapes.
Following the holistic aspirations of the Bauhaus, Feininger also devoted himself to music in 1921 and composed his first fugue. In 1924 he joined forces with Alexej von Jawlensky, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky to form the exhibition group "The Blue Four". Klee, Feininger and Kandinsky taught at the Bauhaus, while Jawlensky worked as a freelance artist.
Lyonel Feininger joined the Bauhaus when it moved to Dessau and remained a master at the Bauhaus without teaching duties. One year after the Bauhaus closed in 1933, the artist returned to Berlin with his family.

The period of Lyonel Feininger's emigration

During the National Socialist era, Feininger's works were officially considered "degenerate art".
As early as 1936, Feininger visited New York and taught at Mills College in Oakland during the summer months. The following year he moved to the USA for good. He continued to teach there at Mills College and at Black Mountain College in North Carolina.
Several major exhibitions were organised in his honour in the USA, such as the retrospective at the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1944. In 1947, he was elected president of the Federation of American Painters and Sculptors.
Feininger died at the age of 84 in New York City, the city of his birth and eventually his adopted home.

Lokomotive: Alte Dampflok, 1945, Charcoal, washed, on paper, 24 × 32 cm

Windmühle in Werder, 1922, Oil on canvas, 48,3 × 40 cm

Brigantine und Schoner, 1932, watercolor and India ink on paper, 32 × 45 cm

Umpferstedt, 1932, charcoal on paper, 30,3 × 23,2 cm


Born in New York on 17 July.
Attends the School of Arts and Crafts in Hamburg.
Studied at the Royal Academy of Arts, Berlin.
Studies at the private art school of the painter Adolf Schlabitz.
Marriage to Clara Fürst. Birth of the first daughter Lore.
Birth of the second daughter Marianne.
Acquaintance with Julia Berg. Separation from his wife Clara.
Moves into a studio in Weimar. Birth of son Andreas.
Marriage to Julia Berg.
Birth of the second son Laurence. Member of the "Berliner Secession".
Birth of the third son Lux.
Exhibits paintings at the "Salon des Indépendants", Paris.
Interned after the USA entered the war.
Professor at the Bauhaus, Weimar.
He composes his first fugue.
Founding member of the artist group "Blaue Vier", Weimar.
Moves to Dessau. Feininger is a master at the Bauhaus without teaching obligations.
The Bauhaus in Dessau is closed.
Return to Berlin.
Feininger holds a summer course at Mills College, Oakland.
Return to the USA.
Worcester Museum of Art - Prize.
Major retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.
Feininger holds a summer course at Black Mountain College, North Carolina.
He is elected President of the Federation of American Painters and Sculptors.
He dies in New York on 13 January.

Artist groups


Founded in Weimar in 1919, the Bauhaus was an art school with an international outlook established after World War I under the direction of Walter Gropius. With its innovative approach and unique philosophy, the Bauhaus not only revolutionised the way art was created and perceived, but also had an enormous impact on architecture, design and the overall aesthetics of the 20th century. The Bauhaus is founded by the German architect Walter Gropius, who wants to create a school that combines art, craft and technology. The aim is to train a new generation of artists capable of meeting the needs of modern society. Bauhaus emphasises collaboration between different disciplines and promotes the idea of the total work of art (Gesamtkunstwerk, inspired by medieval construction huts), where architecture, design and art merge seamlessly. Another important feature of Bauhaus is its emphasis on functionality and minimalist design. This results in a clear, geometric language of form that is still considered typical for the Bauhaus today. The teachers at the Bauhaus are themselves renowned artists and designers, including Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lyonel Feininger. They not only teach theoretical concepts, but also place great emphasis on practical experience. In the institution's workshops, interdisciplinary housing and living concepts are developed, culminating in exhibitions such as that of the model house at the Horn in Weimar. For political reasons, the Bauhaus moves from Weimar to Dessau in 1924 and is finally closed when the National Socialists seize power in 1933.

The Blue Four

The artists' group "Die Blaue Vier" (The Blue Four) was an influential association of four outstanding Expressionist artists: Wassily Kandinsky, Lyonel Feininger, Paul Klee and Alexej von Jawlensky. The group was founded in Weimar in 1924. Already before the war, all artists had participated in exhibition activities of the artists' association "Der Blaue Reiter", which is commemorated through its name. The idea for the formation came from Galka Scheyer, a New York-based art dealer of Russian origin. She organised several exhibitions in the USA hoping to establish the artists on the art market and to ensure that they were known in the USA. Through Scheyer's establishment of her own exhibition house in the Hollywood Hills, the "Blue Four" had a direct influence on the Californian art scene. Their works are exhibited in renowned galleries and museums around the world and are now part of important private and institutional art collections.

Classical Modernism

Classical Modernism comprises various art and style movements of the first half of the 20th century. Especially across countries, there is a great heterogeneity of the arts, whereby not all artists and works can be clearly categorised. Classical Modernism includes not only the visual arts but also design, architecture and photography. The tremendous wealth of currents and tendencies in Classical Modernism shows similarities and differences and proves how strong the exchange among artists is beyond national borders and stylistic movements. Alongside the artists of Expressionism, Surrealism, Cubism, Futurism, New Objectivity and various other avant-garde movements, painters such as Marc Chagall, Marino Marini, Lovis Corinth, Marcel Duchamp, Egon Schiele, Hannah Höch, Maria Lassnig, Max Ernst, Robert Delaunay and Paul Klee belong to Classical Modernism.

November Group

The "Novembergruppe" was founded in Berlin in 1918, shortly after the November Revolution. Until its dissolution in 1933 when the National Socialists seized power, over 170 artists were members of this trend-setting movement. Initiated by Max Pechstein and César Klein, the association brought together artists working in the Expressionist, Futurist and Cubist movements such as Lyonel Feininger, Paul Klee, Alexej von Jawlensky, Willi Baumeister, Wassily Kandinsky, Otto Mueller and Christian Rohlfs. This syncretism also asserts itself in the unification of art, music, architecture, theatre and philosophy that the group advocates. Members asked for a say in matters of art policy, such as the acquisition of art for public collections, art policy and the provision of exhibition space.