The experiences of European and American modernity come together in the person of Lyonel Feininger. He initially trained as a musician in his home city of New York. At the age of 16, he was sent to Germany to complete his violin studies, where he decided to dedicate himself to the plastic arts. In 1892 he spent some time in Paris and although when he got back to Berlin he started publishing his drawings in magazines, he did not achieve professional stability until the Chicago Sunday Tribune hired him as a cartoonist in 1906. He then lived for two years in Paris, where he would return again in 1911 to exhibit at the Salon des Indépendants. At that time he discovered Cubism which, together with German Expressionism, would definitively influence his work.
In 1913 he exhibited with members of the Blaue Reiter group (Blue Rider) and in 1917 he held his first solo exhibition at the Berlin gallery Der Sturm. In 1918 he met Walter Gropius, who recruited him to teach engraving at the Bauhaus. His woodcut entitled The Cathedral would grace the cover of the institution’s first manifesto in 1919, but he soon distanced himself from the trend towards technology that prevailed in the school.
Together with Kandinsky, Klee and Jawlensky, in 1924 he founded the group Die Blaue Vier (The Blue Four). In 1929, his work was featured at the exhibition entitled Paintings by Nineteen Living Americans at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and in 1931 the Nationalgalerie in Berlin dedicated a retrospective to him. But his career was cut short when, in 1935, his work was withdrawn from German museums and became part of the infamous exhibition known as Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) held in Munich. Feininger then returned to the United States, although he found it hard to adapt to its sensibility and iconography. When he died in New York, in 1956, he was acknowledged as one of the leading American artists of the international avant-garde of the pre-World War II period.
María Dolores Jiménez-Blanco