Lyonel Feininger

From Cartoons to Cubism

(Go to gallery of paintings below)

lyonel feininger, self-portrait
Self-Portrait, 1915 Houston Museum of Fine Arts

Lyonel Feininger was a German-American artist who became one of the best-known and admired contributors to the cubist and expressionist schools of art in the early 20th century.

Feininger was one of the founders of the Bauhaus school of art and architecture, along with Walter Gropius. He taught at the school in Weimar and later at Dessau, until it was closed by the Nazis in 1933.

lyonel feininger, cathedral of socialism
Cathedral, 1919 N.Y. Museum of Modern Art

When Walter Gropius wrote the Bauhaus manifesto, Cathedral of Socialism, Lyonel Feininger created the cover illustration, a woodcut called "Cathedral", seen on the right.

Feininger was also a member of the Blue Four group of expressionists, which included Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky.

Many of Feininger's paintings show his distinctive style: angular planes of light intersecting and overlapping one another, often in muted, "industrial" shades. They seems to reflect a theme often showing up in the works of early 20th century expressionists: the sense of alienation felt by the individual in modern society.

His earliest works have a lively, art nouveau look, which later shifts to a muted, impersonal style.

lyonel feininger, apothecary
Ye Learned Apothecary, 1901 N.Y. Museum of Modern Art

Lyonel Feininger was born in New York City in 1871 to a German father and a German-American mother. Both were accomplished musicians: his father, a violinist, and his mother, a singer. At sixteen, Lyonel was sent off to the Leipzig Music Conservatory to study music, but ended up taking classes at the Hamburg School of Art instead.

For twenty years, Feininger worked as an illustrator and cartoonist for newspapers and magazines, both in Germany and the United States.

In 1906, the Chicago Tribune hired him to draw cartoons for two comic strips: The Kin-Der-Kids and Wee Willie Winkie's World.

lyonel feininger, the kin-der-kids lyonel feininger, the kin-der-kids

The Kin-Der-Kids was intended to compete with the popular Katzenjammer Kids comic strip. The story revolved around the adventures of the Kids, who traveled through the world in a bathtub while avoiding their Auntie Jim-Jam and her castor oil. The drawing style was novel and Feininger was one of the first cartoonists to put speech in a bubble. The contract was canceled after nine months when Feininger refused to relocate to America.

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Lyonel Feininger started doing "serious" art at the age of 36 in 1907, beginning with sketches and watercolors. Many of these were of Weimar and the surrounding villages, which he saw when he was visiting his girlfriend, an art student in Weimar.

One of the towns, Gelmenroda, appears frequently in his sketches and later in his paintings. Gelmenroda was the subject of his first oil painting.

When World War I started, he had a difficult time living in Germany as an American; he moved to the Harz Mountains with his family and began creating prints from wood cuts.

degerate art exhibit
Degenerate Art Exhibit

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Lyonel Feininger's work was declared "Degenerate Art", or "Entartete Kunst". The Bauhaus school was closed by the authorities as well.

400 of his works were seized by the Ministry of Propaganda and some 17 were included in various exhibitions of Degenerate Art held in 1936 and 1937.

lyonel feininger photo

Because of the artistic climate and his wife's Jewish ancestry, Feininger left Germany in 1937 and settled permanently in New York City. He continued with his art in New York until his death in 1956 at the age of 84.

Lyonel Feininger became quite famous during the years between the wars and after. His works were exhibited in numerous galleries in Europe and the United States, including the New York Museum of Modern Art. Now they are widely scattered among numerous galleries worldwide. (Information on the Lyonel Feininger Gallery in Quedlinburg.)

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Examples of Lyonel Feininger's
Oil Paintings

The works below are presented chronologically. You can see a progression from the representational, colorful, almost cartoon-like drawings to his characteristic abstract, somber style.

lyonel feininger, in a village near paris
In a Village Near Paris, 1909
Univ. of Iowa Museum of Art
lyonel feininger, newspaper readers
Newspaper Readers, 1909

lyonel fieninger, longeuil normandie
Longeuil, Normandie, 1909
Art Institute of Chicago
lyonel feininger, velocipedists
Velocipedists, 1910

lyonel feininger, uprising
Uprising, 1910
N.Y. Museum of Modern Art
lyonel feininger, carnival in arcueil
Carnival in Arcueil, 1911
Art Institute of Chicago

lyonel feininger, bathers on the beach
Bathers on the Beach, 1912
Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge
lyonel feininger, bicycle race
Bicycle Race, 1912
National Gallery, D.C.

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lyonel feininger, angler with blue fish 2
Angler With Blue Fish II, 1912
(Sold June 2006, Sotheby's)
lyonel feininger, gelmeroda III
Gelmeroda III, 1913
National Galleries of Scotland

lyonel feininger, umpferstedt II
Umpferstedt II, 1914
Philadelphia Museum of Art
lyonel feininger, gross kromsdorf I
Gross Kromsdorf I, 1915
Minneapolis Institute of Art

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lyonel feininger, harbor at neppermin
Harbor at Neppermin, 1915
Art Institute of Chicago
lyonel feininger, jesuits III
Jesuits III, 1915
(Sold May 2007, Sotheby's)

lyonel feininger, green bridge II
The Green Bridge II, 1916
North Carolina Museum of Art
lyonel feininger, denstedt
Denstedt 1917
N.Y. Museum of Modern Art

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lyonel feininger, markwippach
Markwippach, 1917
Cleveland Museum of Art
lyonel feininger, still life with can
Still Life With Can, 1917
(For sale,

lyonel feininger, yellow street
Yellow Street, 1918
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
lyonel feininger, zirchow VII
Zirchow VII, 1918
National Gallery, D.C

lyonel feininger, bridge V
Bridge V, 1919
Philadelphia Museum of Art
lyonel feininger, hopfgarten
Hopfgarten, 1920
Minneapolis Institute of Art

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lyonel feininger, architecture ii
Architecture II, 1921
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid
lyonel feininger, upper weimar
Upper Weimar, 1921
Museum Boijmans van Beuningen,

lyonel feininger, gelmeroda village pond
Gelmeroda Village Pond, 1922
Städel Museum, Frankfurt
lyonel feininger, lady in mauve
Lady in Mauve, 1922
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid

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lyonel feininger, marine blue
Marine Blue, 1924
lyonel feininger, barfusserkirche 1924
Barfusserkirche, 1924

lyonel feininger, village 1927
Village, 1927
Phillips Collection
lyonel feininger, gruetz tower
The Gruetz Tower in Treptow, 1928

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lyonel feininger, arch tower
Arch Tower I
lyonel feininger, gelmeroda XII
Gelmeroda XII, 1929

lyonel feininger, sail boats
Sail Boats, 1929
lyonel feininger, village street
Village Street, 1929
Art Institute of Chicago

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lyonel feininger, spiller tag am meer III
Spiller Tag am Meer III, 1929
lyonel feininger, regler church, erfurt
Regler Church, Erfurt, 1930
Boston Museum of Fine Arts

lyonel feininger, sunset
Sunset, 1930
Boston Museum of Fine Arts
lyonel feininger, vogel wolke
Vogel Wolke

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lyonel feininger, mill in spring
The Mill in the Spring, 1935
Currier Museum of Art, N.H.
lyonel feininger, blue skyscrapers
Blue Skyscrapers, 1937
Norton Simon Museum

lyonel feininger, storm brewing
Storm Brewing, 1939
National Gallery, D.C.
lyonel feininger, old locomotive
Old Locomotive

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lyonel feininger, silver constellation
Silver Constellation
lyonel feininger, manhattan I
Manhattan I, 1940
N.Y. Musuem of Modern Art

lyonel feininger, spook I
Spook I, 1940
Phillips Collection
lyonel feininger, lunar web
Lunar Web, 1951
Brooklyn Museum

Some dates and locations I wasn't able to find. The images are used in accordance with the U.S. Fair Use Copyright Law: commentary on works, small images files.

See list of galleries with Lyonel Feininger's works.

> Lyonel Feininger

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