Lyonel Feininger

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German-American artist Lyonel Feininger is regarded as one of the leading figures of the cubist and expressionist schools of art of the 20th century. Along with Walter Gropius he also founded the Bauhaus school of art and architecture where he taught art for many years, he also taught actively in art schools in Weimer and Dessau before the Nazi occupation. Feininger is regarded as a prominent figure of the Bauhaus movement and his paintings inhabit themes of romanticism, and are mostly based on seascapes, portraits and architecture. Feininger also worked actively as a comic book artist and caricaturist before embarking on painting full time. In fact he was quite a successful comic strip artist and caricaturist for 20 years working for leading magazines in both America and Germany. Feininger was also member of the Blue Four group of expressionists including Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky.

Lyonel Charles Feininger was born in 1871 in New York to a German violinist father and an American singer. Having both parents as musicians helped Feininger establish a love for the arts. At the age of 16, Feininger moved to Germany which is where he initially found fame as one of the leading artist of German Expressionism and the Bauhaus movement. Feininger studied art in Berlin and then moved to Paris where he also dived into studying sculpting. Regardless of whether it’s his groundbreaking comic strips for the Chicago Tribune, his photographs, symbolic Expressionist compositions or the intricate hand carved wooden figures Feininger always excelled in whatever he took up. After almost 40 years in Germany, due to the ongoing tension caused by Nazi occupation Feininger fled back to New York. The Nazi occupation played havoc with the pioneering work Feininger and other members of the Bauhaus movement had accomplished in Germany. His work, along with the others was dubbed as ‘degenerate art’ and a lot of it ended up being destroyed by the Nazis. The move worked in Feininger’s favour as within a few years his name became synonymous with recognizable imagery turning him into a beloved artist in America as well. Feininger’s earlier works as an artist showcase a more lively approach towards painting, almost like an artist who is painting with a free hand. This style later shifted to a more melancholy muted route with a strong impersonal touch. Feininger’s paintings stand out due to his signature style of utilizing abrupt angular planes of light overlapping each other and using very dull dark shades. For many art lovers today it was Feininger’s way of showing the alienation he may have felt despite being a well known artist.

His two comic book strips for Chicago Tribune titled The Kin-Der –Kids and Wee Willie Winkie’s World are legendary even to this day. He was the first comic strip artist to introduce the bubble text concept in America thereby playing an important role in the history of comic art as well. In 1955 Feininger was elected into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and today his paintings, sculptures can be found in galleries across the world. From Montreal, Munich, London, Paris and of course new York – large retrospect’s of his work can be found.

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