Lyonel Feininger

Date/place of birth

July 17, 1871, New York

Day/place of death

January 13, 1956, New York

Lyonel Feininger

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Lyonel Feininger biography

Lyonel Feininger was one of the first masters of Bauhaus and embodied, unlike few others, its concept of the consolidation of art and craft. The German American painter, graphic artist and caricaturist came late to painting, but with his abstract-heightened style, developed rapidly into one of the most important representatives of classical modernism.

Lyonel Feininger – studies in Berlin, Liège and Paris, erratic private life

Lyonel Feininger was born in New York on 17 July 1871. His parents were ethnic German musicians, his father Karl a concert violinist and his mother Elisabeth a singer and pianist. At the age of 16 Lyonel accompanied his parents on a concert tour to Germany and with their permission, remained in Hamburg to enroll at the Decorative Arts school there. One year later he went to Berlin to the Königliche Akademie and alongside his studies initially worked as a caricaturist for a weekly newspaper. Urged by his father, in 1890 he visited the Collège Saint Servais in Liège where his interest in old city architecture began. In 1892 a scholarship took him for seven months to the Académie Colarossi, founded by the sculptor Filippo Colarossi. In 1893 he returned to Paris and worked as a freelance caricaturist and illustrator for various journals including the Humoristischen Blätter, the Lüstigen Blätter and Ulk. Feininger married the pianist Clara Fürst in 1901, the sister of the painter Edmund Fürst and student of Artur Schnabel. They had two daughters, Leonore (Lore) and Marianne. He left his young family four years later however for the artist Julia Berg, who had also left her husband.

Friendship with Alfred Kubin, brisk exhibition activity

In 1909, Lyonel Feininger was made a member of the Berlin Secession and two years later participated with six pictures in an exhibition in the “Salon des Indépendants” in Paris where he met Robert Delauney. The works “Prima-ismus” were created under the influence of French Cubism. Although Feininger kept loose contact with the artist group “Blauer Reiter”, he did not become a member. A more fruitful friendship developed with Alfred Kubin who brokered him an invitation from Franz Marc to the “Erster Deutscher Herbstsalon” and in that same year Feininger withdrew from the Berlin Secession. His first large solo exhibition was held in 1917 in Herwarth Walden’s Galerie “Der Sturm” and in 1919 Walter Gropius appointed him as one of the first masters of the newly founded Bauhaus in Weimar. In 1924 he established the group “Die blaue Vier” together with Alexej von Jawlensky, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky and in 1925 their first exhibition was held in New York,

Enforced emigration to USA

Lyonel Feininger remained connected to Bauhaus until its closure in 1932, even though he had resigned from teaching there in 1926. In 1936 he taught temporarily at the “Mills College” in California, returning however once more to Berlin. The political state in Nazi Germany and the defamation of his art as “degenerate” meant he could not remain there. Not least through the support of the art collector Hermann Klumpp, Lyonel Feininger and his wife Julia managed to escape to the USA. There he designed murals for the World Exhibition in New York and painted the skyscrapers of Manhattan. Towards the end of his life he turned progressively to watercolours. Lyonel Feininger died in New York on 13 January 1956. His daughter from his first marriage, Lore Feininger was a successful portrait and architecture photographer.

© Kunsthaus Lempertz

Lyonel Feininger Prices

Lyonel FeiningerAn der Seine, Paris€428.400
Lyonel FeiningerOhne Titel - Pulu's Easter Egg 1952 (Untitled - Pulu's Easter Egg 1952)€193.600
Lyonel FeiningerRailroad Train (Eisenbahnzug)€144.000
Lyonel FeiningerTown Hall of Cammin€119.000
Lyonel FeiningerDesign for Mural "SS Constitution". Verso: Segelschiffe und Kreuzer.€81.250
Lyonel FeiningerLuminous Clouds€65.340

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