Lyonel Feininger



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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.

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 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.


1871 – Born in New York on 17 July.

1887 – Attends the School of Arts and Crafts in Hamburg.

1888 – Studied at the Royal Academy of Arts, Berlin.

1891 – Studies at the private art school of the painter Adolf Schlabitz.

1901 – Marriage to Clara Fürst. Birth of the first daughter Lore.

1902 – Birth of the second daughter Marianne.

1905 – Acquaintance with Julia Berg. Separation from his wife Clara.

1906 – Moves into a studio in Weimar. Birth of son Andreas.

1908 – Marriage to Julia Berg.

1909 – Birth of the second son Laurence. Member of the “Berliner Secession”.

1910 – Birth of the third son Lux.

1911 – Exhibits paintings at the “Salon des Indépendants”, Paris.

1917 – Interned after the USA entered the war.

1919 – Professor at the Bauhaus, Weimar.

1921 – He composes his first fugue.

1924 – Founding member of the artist group “Blaue Vier”, Weimar.

1926 – Moves to Dessau. Feininger is a master at the Bauhaus without teaching obligations.

1932 – The Bauhaus in Dessau is closed.

1933 – Return to Berlin.

1936 – Feininger holds a summer course at Mills College, Oakland.

1937 – Return to the USA.

1943 – Worcester Museum of Art – Prize.

1944 – Major retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.

1945 – Feininger holds a summer course at Black Mountain College, North Carolina.

1947 – He is elected President of the Federation of American Painters and Sculptors.

1956 – He dies in New York on 13 January.




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