Strollers – The Passing Scene
Early Drawings and Prints 1906-1921
October 22 – December 12, 2002
Deutsche Bank Lobby Gallery in New York is featuring an exhibition of works by Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956) that surveys the American artist’s early drawings and prints devoted to the human figure. Feininger was born in the U.S. but moved to Germany as a young man and ended up staying nearly fifty years.
Strollers – The Passing Scene includes forty sketches executed in pencil, ink, watercolor and color crayon, as well as woodcut prints. Each reveals Feininger’s astute visual perceptions of people in daily life and often delightfully invokes the spirit of Feininger’s early training as a caricaturist. Feininger drew constantly throughout his life - observing how people walk on the street, sit in cafés or interact with each other, calling the drawings his Naturnotizen (nature notes). The figures are often elongated or exaggerated in size in proportion to their environments, and because they are rapidly sketched, evoke fleeting moments in time. According to Feininger, his drawing… “represents reality as I have experienced it – while the ‘real reality,’ if by chance I encounter the same situation again, looks very dreary to me and contaminated with unsympathetic associations.”
Passerby with cane, profile 1909, color crayon on paper
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2002
Lyonel Feininger was born in New York in 1871. He moved to Germany in 1887 to pursue his studies and soon began a career as an illustrator and cartoonist for German newspapers. Commissioned by the Chicago Sunday Tribune for two series of comic strips, Feininger went to Paris in 1906 where he discovered the work of Cezanne and van Gogh. In Paris, he made the decision to become a painter and moved back to Berlin in 1908. He later became an exhibiting member of the Berliner Secession, met the avant-garde expressionist group, Die Brücke, and in 1913 took a studio in Weimar.
Exploring the area surrounding Weimar, he sketched many villages that would be important sources for future paintings and watercolors.
In 1917, Feininger moved to Braunlage in the Harz mountain range where he produced mostly woodcuts (due to the war, paint was expensive and wood was more readily available). That same year, he had his first one-man show at the Berlin gallery Der Sturm. In 1919, Walter Gropius invited Feininger to join the Staatliches Bauhaus as head of the graphics workshop, where he taught until the Bauhaus closed in 1932. In 1937, he returned to the United States after nearly fifty years, eventually settling in New York. In the early 1940s, Feininger began to develop an abstract, graphic style of painting. Together with Marsden Hartley, Feininger had a large retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1944, and in 1949, shared an exhibition with Jacque Villon at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Boston. In 1955, he was elected a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. In January of the following year, the artist passed away at home in NYC the age of 84.
Eilige Leute (People Hurrying), 1914
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2002
The exhibition includes several small, early photographs taken by the artist of people walking in the street, as well as a toy train hand-carved by the artist. These rare artifacts allow the viewer to see further the multiple ways in which Feininger’s artistic curiosity was realized in different forms.
Strollers – The Passing Scene is curated by Achim Moeller, the well-know expert on Lyonel Feininger, and the works have been selected from Mr. Moeller’s own collection. Mr. Moeller is currently working on a catalogue raisonné of Feininger’s paintings, drawings and watercolors. Read N. F. Karlins' review in his column at artnet.com.
The Deutsche Bank Lobby Gallery is open daily from 9 am to 7 pm and is located on the ground floor at 31 West 52nd St. between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in New York City. Admission is free.