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Lyonel Feininger


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(b New York, 17 July 1871; d New York, 13 Jan. 1956).

American painter who spent most of his career in Europe. He was born into a German-American musical family; in 1887 he moved to Germany with the intention of studying music, but he turned instead to art. He had drawings published in Berlin's humorous weeklies and by the turn of the century he was Germany's leading political cartoonist. In 1906–8 he lived in Paris and under the influence of Robert Delaunay turned seriously to painting. By 1912 he had evolved a personal style (influenced by Cubism but highly distinctive) in which natural forms were treated in terms of a rhythmic pattern of prismatically coloured interpenetrating planes bounded by straight lines—a manner that he applied particularly to architectural and marine subjects. His work impressed the members of the Blaue Reiter, who invited Feininger to exhibit with them in 1913. Although he was an alien, he remained in Germany throughout the First World War and afterwards taught at the Bauhaus from its foundation in 1919 (one of his woodcuts appeared on the cover of its manifesto) until its closure by the Nazis in 1933; he was the only person to be on the staff from start to finish, although he did little teaching in its later years. In 1935 he visited the USA and in 1937 (the year in which the Nazis declared his work degenerate) he returned there permanently. He settled in New York and adopted the architecture of Manhattan as one of his favourite subjects, working with vigour into his eighties. His son Andreas Feininger (1906–99) was a distinguished photographer and writer on photography.

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