FEININGER Lyonel
American painter born in New York in 1871. His parents, German immigrants, were both musicians. Having shown early a marked talent for music, he went to Germany to study, but in 1887 decided to devote himself to art instead. Towards 1912 the influence of Cubism helped him to find his own manner. Feininger was one of the first artist to be invited by Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus, in 1919, to teach with him in Weimar. Although he did not teach there for long, he stayed on at the Bauhaus until it was disbanded by the Nazis in 1933, and his art, as well as his personality, contributed largely to the formation of its spiritual climate. Feininger left Germany in 1937, for political reasons, and settled in New York. From Cubism he learnt the transportation of forms and volumes into simple planes limited by straight lines, very rarely by curves. These planes were segmented. The structure of his pictures, after 1912, is akin to that of the Cubism of the Section d'Or in Paris, but subsequently became more and more complex and crystalline, until it attained an almost nonrepresentational autonomy, between 1915 and 1919. After 1919, influenced by the architectural spirit of the Bauhaus, the ordering of his planes became clearer: they are joined in an order without heaviness, and are organized into architectural visions in which the aspect of the medieval streets of the towns and villages around Weimar is marvellously transposed. But Feininger does not think and construct in terms of architecture, as Walter Gropius has justly said. In fact, the constituent elements of his pictures are, in the transparent fluidity of their colours, rays of light which, by their interpenetrations, create that atmosphere of purity and unreality which is so characteristic of Feininger's art. A romantic nostalgia, his German heritage, thus finds definite form in precise construction of delicate sensibility. Like the American painter John Marin (to whom he is akin), Feininger has, since childhood, had a passion for boats and the sea. As with Marin, water-colours occupy an important place in his work particularly since his return to the United States. His language has become even more precise, more musical, and his colour denser. His work is always the slow and methodical ripening of a themearchitecture in Manhattan, or a view of the ocean -- which the painter never relinquishes until it has been fully realized in the full expanse of the picture.
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