Apparently, Lyonel Feininger was unhappy. It’s hard to miss it when you look at the photo “Villa sur Seine I”. He painted it in oils on cardboard in 1907 in Paris, where he stayed for a while: a house, the river, in blue and green, spotted in an impressionist way. A genre that is not considered typical of Feininger today, and: with a strange …
Apparently, Lyonel Feininger was unhappy. It’s hard to miss it when you look at the photo “Villa sur Seine I”. He painted it in oils on cardboard in 1907 in Paris, where he stayed for a while: a house, the river, in blue and green, spotted in an impressionist way. A type that is not considered typical of Feininger today, and: with a strange cross stretching across the leaf. Feininger allegedly threw the photo away later and threw it in the trash when it was folded! Out of self-doubt? Out of anger at so-called own incapacity? But Hermann Klumpp was there! A friend of Feininger, who allegedly found the photo and saved it. It is therefore hung today at the Lyonel Feininger gallery in Quedlinburg. The folds, which open in a cross, have been left visible, they symbolize a certain degree of conflict on the part of the painter. Lyonel Feininger was born today, Saturday 150 years ago.
On the occasion of this anniversary, the gallery, also called the Museum of Graphic Arts, presents the exhibition “Becoming Feininger”, which means something like: Feininger’s path to becoming a world famous artist. The title is the program of the exhibition with around 160 works: exhibited are caricatures with which Feininger first earned money in Berlin, then his first impressionist paintings such as the villa on the Seine, the passage to work in cubist influences, the peeling of own handwriting into graphics and paintings with crystal structures resembling prisms – when Feininger depicted villages and churches in Thuringia, he liked to assemble them in modular and kaleidoscopic fashion, arranging them in geometric grids to give order to the world, to make it understandable, as museum director Gloria Köpnick says. You can also see Feininger’s watercolors of the Baltic Sea and some works from his later years in New York. So Feininger in all phases of life, and when, if not on his 150th birthday, such a comprehensive offer would be presented, asks Köpnick. She’s right. The exhibition gives Feininger beginners a good overview and Feininger connoisseurs once again happy moments in view of its sublime and remote churches and villages, its sea with dunes and clouds, ships and cargo ships drawn in pure beauty with only some lines and colors. The works come mainly from three collections: from the Armin Rühl collection, from that of the art museum in Moritzburg / Halle and from the Hermann Klumpp collection, which would have fished not only the “Villa on Seine I” in the wastepaper basket. Klumpp met Feininger and his wife at the Bauhaus in Dessau.
It was the peak of the painter. Feininger, born July 17, 1871 in New York City as the son of two musicians of German descent, came to Germany at the age of 16 to study music, but without further ado he studied art and at From the 1890s worked in Berlin as a cartoonist for various newspapers, among others, the emerging cyclists – and he loved to cycle himself – on the grain. From 1906, he took care of printing techniques and began to paint, encouraged by his second wife Julia Berg, with whom he had three sons (Andreas Feininger, for example, became a famous photographer); marriage to the first wife Clara Fürst had produced two daughters. In 1919 Feininger was appointed master at the Bauhaus school in Weimar to teach students. There he designed the motif for the well-known title of the Bauhaus manifesto with the “Cathedral” and then moved with the school to Dessau. Feininger became one of the most important representatives of classical modernism, but when the National Socialists increasingly pressed him as a modern artist and defamed his works, Feiningers moved to the United States, where he was also able to establish himself. Feininger died on January 13, 1956 in New York.
He had to be popular with his Bauhaus students, he didn’t want to cripple them with theories, but let them go, also in order to find enough peace for his own work. It’s nice to read in Feininger’s new biography “Portrait of a Life” written by Andreas Platthaus. Platthaus describes Feininger’s disturbance, on the one hand political. The growing power of the National Socialists in the 1930s had irritated him, but left him wavering. Like many times before, sometimes he found the Germans insufferable and praised old America, sometimes he propagated it backwards. Now he naively and stubbornly hoped to be able to reconcile with Nazi Germany, where he had been able to celebrate successes in the country and finally felt at home, while his wife, a Jewess, sooner understood that they had to leave the country. country for USA. But Feininger could not do it until 1937.
On the other hand, the painter’s struggle to express himself clearly appears in Platthaus’s book. It begins with the cover of the book: “Self-Portrait with Clay Pipe” by Feininger from 1910. The painting can also be seen in Quedlinburg, as the first painting in the exhibition – and Feininger would not have been satisfied with it either. , and later he crumpled it up and threw it away. But again: Klumpp was there. His collection of works by Feininger – which does not come only from wastepaper baskets – forms the basis of the Quedlinburg gallery. Klumpp, who is from there, studied architecture at the Bauhaus in Dessau and befriended the Feiningers. Before emigrating to the United States, Feininger gave several of his works to Klumpp, who hid the images from the Nazis. Many years later, after the ownership structure was clarified with Feininger’s heirs, the collection had to be made accessible to the public: the Feininger Gallery was founded 35 years ago in Quedlinburg. Klumpp died a year later in 1987.
Today, the director of the Köpnick museum is worried about the future. The Harz district, which has so far co-funded the gallery, will stop its funding – 200,000 euros annually – from 2022. The 32-year-old art historian Köpnick has been running the gallery since autumn 2020 and wishes to makes it well-equipped for the future with new ideas. But the district justifies its withdrawal by its “deficit budgetary position”, as it is called in a press release. Negotiations are underway for new funding, but the district’s goal, it is said, is for the city and country to participate more in the funding.
Feininger would probably have been rather unhappy with the district’s decision. At the same time, however, proud of how the images once hidden by Klumpp still inspire museum visitors today. Go back and forth.
The exhibition “Becoming Feininger” at the Lyonel Feininger gallery in Quedlinburg is visible until January 9, 2022. feininger-galerie.de