Lyonel Feininger at the Bauhaus
In May 1919, Lyonel Feininger was one of the first masters to be appointed to the State Bauhaus in Weimar by Walter Gropius, where he was the master in charge of the printmaking workshop from 1919 to 1925. With his woodcut Kathedrale des Sozialismus (Cathedral of Socialism) as the famous cover design of the Bauhaus manifesto, Feininger succeeded in epitomizing the founding idea of the Bauhaus, the unity of art and craft.
Feininger considered the church tower a symbol of hope and peace during and after World War I in particular. The artist negated all sense of perspective in his works, assembling motifs of cubic, nested and prismatically fractured forms that lend the works an inner monumentality. Adopting Delaunay’s theory of color, his motifs are always characterized by a slight transparency bathed in light. In the 1920s, he began to juxtapose his cityscapes with depictions of coastal landscapes.
In line with the holistic vision 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 Die Blaue Vier (The Blue Four). Klee, Feininger and Kandinsky taught at the Bauhaus, while Jawlensky worked as an independent artist.
Lyonel Feininger followed the Bauhaus to Dessau and remained a master there without any teaching obligations. One year after the closure of the Bauhaus in 1933, the artist returned to Berlin with his family.
Lyonel Feininger’s Emigration Period
During the National Socialist era, Feininger’s works were officially classed as “degenerate art.”
Feininger began visiting New York as early as 1936 and taught at Mills College in Oakland during the summer months. He moved permanently to the USA in the following year. He continued to teach at Mills College and at Black Mountain College in North Carolina.
Several major exhibitions were organized in the USA in his honor, such as the retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1944. He was elected president of the Federation of American Painters and Sculptors in 1947.
Feininger died in New York City—his birthplace and eventual adopted home—at the age of eighty-four.
• Elger, Dietmar (1991) EXPRESSIONISMUS, Cologne: Taschen Verlag GmbH • bauhaus kooperation: https://www.bauhauskooperation.de/wissen/das-bauhaus/koepfe/meister-und-lehrende/lyonel-feininger/ (last accessed: 08/11/2020)