“…Art is not a profession but the highest expression, the greatest necessity.” Lyonel Feininger.
Lyonel Feininger was born in New York to German immigrant parents. He left for Europe in 1887 to study music but soon turned to art which he studied in Hamburg, Berlin and Paris. He quickly established a reputation as one of the foremost political cartoonists in Germany before being offered a contract to produce caricatures for the Chicago Sunday Tribune, for which he created one of his most famous strips in 1906, ‘The Kin-der-Kids’. In 1907 Feininger dedicated himself to painting. On a visit to Paris he came into contact with Cubism and, with the support of Robert Delaunay, he began to develop a distinctive style of painting.
He became a member of the Section door in 1912 and exhibited with the Blue Rider group the following year. He remained in Germany throughout the First World War and in 1919 joined the Bauhaus school where he taught until its closure by the Nazis in 1933. During this period he developed his woodcutting techniques. The Nazi exhibition of Degenerate Art, however, persuaded him to return to the United States in 1937, and he remained in New York for the rest of his life.
His style took on the mannerisms of analytical Cubism. He made use of rhythmic interpretations of natural forms, studied the effects of transparency and prismatic planes, and used light to reconstruct elements from the real world. He was fascinated with seascapes and the urban views presented in Manhattan.
Feininger’s work is highly individual and is highly regarded. While a lot of his early work featured quite reserved colouring, he actually became more vigorous later in life, incorporating much more vibrant colours into his work. He always claimed his first love was music, but it is his artwork that will be remembered.