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Status, price and estimation of the artist Lyonel FEININGER
Price of a painting signed Feininger: 20,000 – 7,000,000€.
Estimate of a drawing or watercolour by the artist for auction: 3,000 – 40,000€.
Artist’s status for a print: 700 – 8,000€.
About the artist
Resolutely a multi-talented artist, Lyonel Feininger is a German-American painter who is a member of the German Expressionist movement, but also an engraver, cartoonist, comic book author and photographer.
Initial success as an illustrator
Born in New York to concert pianist parents of German origin, he went to Berlin and then to Paris to follow his artistic training at the fine arts. As early as 1905, he began to produce humorous caricatures with anthropomorphic tendencies for the German magazines Ulk and Lustige Blätter and drawings for the comic strips published by the American daily Chicago Tribune. He also delivered some drawings to the French satirical magazine Le Témoin.
His pictorial and engraved work
Feininger gave up illustrations to devote himself fully to painting from 1911, after contemplating the works of Vincent Van Gogh at the Bernheim-Jeune gallery and the cubists at the Salon des indépendants in Paris. Faithful to cubist precepts, he turned away from figurative elements to recompose his compositions ad infinitum. Their central themes were the city and the architecture of its monuments, especially the churches in the burgs of Thuringia, which can be likened to serial work (Vollersroda, Gelmeroda). His apprenticeship in colour was carried out with the master Robert Delaunay and his cubism retains a certain lyricism: colour is at the service of light and spirituality.
It should be noted that Feininger was an active member of the Berlin Secession as early as 1909, a group founded in reaction to the conservatism of the Berlin Artists’ Association, but also an associate of the expressionist group Die Brüke in Dresden alongside Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and others.
In 1919, the architect and designer Walter Gropius invited him to the Weimar School of Architecture and Applied Arts, the Bauhaus, to head the printing workshop. There he produced his first lithographs and etchings, his expressionist woodcut The Cathedral of the Future as the frontispiece of the Bauhaus Manifesto.
As early as 1933, Lyonel Feininger had to suffer the consequences of the rise of Nazism: the Bauhaus was forced to close and the artist, being an American citizen, went into exile in the United States. His works were also excluded from museums, taxed as art “ dégénéré ” and exhibited at the Entartete Kunst. Back in his home town, Feininger returned to painting and enjoyed a retrospective exhibition during his lifetime at the Museum of Modern Art in 1944 and then at the Whitney Museum half a century after his death.
Feininger’s photographic work
Often neglected in favour of his pictorial work, Feininger is also known for his photographs, which he began late, at almost sixty years of age, after his time at the Bauhaus. During his most productive period from 1928 to 1939, he experimented with avant-garde photographic techniques such as the panoramic views of New York or the night views of the geometrical architecture of the Dessau campus. His son, Andreas Feininger, is an American photographer trained at the Bauhaus in Dessau and world-famous for his telephoto and other types of photography.
Among his main works can be cited: Uprising (1910), Gelmeroda XII (1929), Manhattan II (1940).
Noteworthy auction sale: Artcurial, 29 May 2011, Hafen von Swinemünde, oil on canvas, 1915: €5.7m.
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