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Feininger, Lyonel (1871-1956)
by Scholes, Robert

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Lyonel Feininger (1871 - 1956)

The son of two professional musicians, Lyonel Feininger was born in New York City but spent much of his professional life abroad, returning from Germany after his work was included in the Nazi's infamous "Degenerate Art" show in 1937. As a child, he was sent to Germany to study music in 1886. He was more interested in art, however, and attended the Berlin Art Academy and the Colarossi Academy in Paris. He started his career as a cartoonist in 1894, working for a number of German, French and American magazines. It was his contract with the Chicago Tribune that enabled him to spend two years in Paris (1906-08), where the influence of Cubism and Futurism—especially the Orphic Cubism of Robert Delaunay—became the basis of his later work as a painter on both sides of the Atlantic.By 1919, he had been invited by Walter Gropius to join the staff of the Bauhaus, where he taught until Hitler closed it in 1933. His work ranges from early cartoons and caricatures to geometrized land and sea images. His son, Andreas, has become a well-known photographer.

Huntly Carter noticed his work in Paris in 1911, observing in The New Age that "Lyonel Feininger's caricatures in colour and line nearly floored me. His figures are brilliantly drunk with movement. They tear down the gallery like men and women coming out of the Rat Mort at six a.m." NA 9.4:83

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