American, 1871 - 1956
Lyonel Feininger was born into a family of musicians in New York in 1871. Initially trained as a violinist, he went to Germany in 1887 to continue his musical education but soon switched to drawing. He studied art in Hamburg, Berlin, and Paris while supporting himself as a cartoonist and illustrator for German and American periodicals and newspapers. In Paris he met a number of avant-garde artists, and by 1912-1913 he had developed a personal version of cubism that showed the influence of futurism. Feininger's style is one in which forms are fragmented into faceted planes of color, creating a dialogue between abstraction and representation.
Feininger exhibited with the Blue Rider (Blaue Reiter), a group of German expressionist artists including Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc. From 1918-1933 he taught at the Bauhaus, a German school famous for the study of modern architecture and design. After the closing of the Bauhaus in 1933 and the change of the political climate in Germany, Feininger returned to the United States. In 1938 he settled in New York, where the Museum of Modern Art presented the first extensive exhibition of his work in 1944. In America, Feininger continued to paint his favorite themes--buildings and cities, the sea and boats--in his distinctive style. Toward the end of his career, his style became more atmospheric and his colors more vibrant. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s Feininger's work was exhibited widely in the United States and in Europe.
[This is an excerpt from the interactive companion to the videodisc American Art from the National Gallery of Art.]