Emil Nolde – the lash not the latte!

 

Emil Nolde (nee Hansen) (1867-1956, 79)

The lash not the latte! Die Peitsche nicht die Latte!

 

The message not the aesthetic?

One off. A singular „primitive“ German Expressionist painter.

Not a „nice man“? No cosmopolitian multiculturalist: a pious, reactionary, pro-Nazi outsider.

But some striking modern paintings. If on his favoured old themes.

Nolde fits a 600 year tradition of serious, slightly mad, moralising, reactionary German art?

 

FEATURED

1920. Tänzerin und Harlekin (Dancer and Harlequin). 5 x 100 cm, oil on canvas (burlap).Nolde Foundation.    COMMENT: at age 53, one of Nolde’s later (last?) quirky figure paintings, again invokes dancing.

 

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1909. Wildly Dancing Children (Enfants dansant sauvagement). 73 X 88, Kiel, Kunsthalle

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1921 Paradise Lost (Paradies verloren), oil on canvas, 86.5 x 100.5 cm, Nolde Stiftung Seebüll.

COMMENT: two signature Nolde works, an early Post-Impressionist cum Expressionist take on a timeless human theme, Dionysian revel, and a shell-shocked Aryan Eve in a later rowdy account of the foundation story for Christianity, the title making his point, a work which for some reason the Church was not keen to acquire.

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Claude Monet (1840-1926). c1868. Coucher de soleil, pastel on paper, 21.8 x 35.8 cm. Est. GBP 200-300k.

COMMENT:  Here is a Christies’ offering 28 February 2018, London, a simple small proto-Expressionist work by Monet, painted in the late 1860s, 6 years before Impressionism was officially launched, and about 60 years before Nolde was still painting much the same way by the Baltic.

 

 1/ Summary

Emil Nolde was something else, different. For a brief spell before and around WW1 the Danish-German artist was a distinctly original Expressionist painter.

But as a leading Modernist he was also a strange if not unique mix of eye-catching art, a taciturn personality, little or no formal art training, and starkly un-modern“ old ideas, like old-time Christian religion and anti-Semitic pro-Nazi German nationalism.

But as such he arguably also fits well within a 600 year long tradition of slightly mad, moralising reactionary German art? The message not the aesthetic? „Die Botschaft nicht die Ästhetik?“

Though to be fair his copious colorful Baltic skyscapes and flowers showed he relaxed nearer the aesthetic pole.

 

His creative apogee was brief, only about a decade, c1909-19.

Appropriately, after finding his feet around 1905-08 (meeting the Die Brücke group, 1906-07, and Edvard Munch in 1906) Nolde in mid 1909 abruptly kick started his distinctive vigorous Expressionist style through religion. After recovering from illness that summer he embarked on a sequence of striking Expressionist religious paintings, like La Pentecôte (Pentecost), The Last Supper and Verspottung (Mocking of Christ by the Soldiers). In 1911/12 followed the huge 9 panel,  The Life of Christ (centre panel 220.5 x 193.5 cm; the side panels each 100 x 86 cm), and 1915, the powerful compressed The Burial.

This theme then didn’t get much stranger than his wild 1912 tryptych on the unfamiliar St Mary of Egypt, an obscure and bizarre 7th C AD misogynistic story which also illustrates the Church’s problem with women. Also in 1912 came his iconic  woodcut The Prophet of 1912. A decade later he unloaded with a shell-shocked Eve in Paradise Lost and a gory Martyrdom triptych.

From this religious passion he broadened his ambit to encompass what we might call primeval irrational urges, so striking too for elements of the primeval Dionysian madness within was a clutch of frantic dance themed images after 1910, and then many of his figure groups, like The Missionary (1912, painted before his New Guinea visit), Boy with a Big Bird (1912), Soldiers (1913), and Encounter on the beach (1920),

Then his creative flame waned after c1921? Beyond his mid 50s. He still painted a lot – many figures (portraits, small groups, some recalling post WW1 Francis Picabia?), many landscapes (sea and sky), and some flowers (lots of poppies and sunflowers) – mostly small and sketchy, in his trademark patchy colour-mad style. But mostly he was treading water, particulaly once proscribed by the Nazis.

 

„Primitive“ fits Emil Nolde, like his uncosmopolitan reactionary view of life: his strong attachment to his Christian faith, to his stark North Sea rural coastal home in far north Germany (a “regionalist“, Peter Selz, MOMA, 1963), and also to anti-Semitic German nationalism, later including a strong allegiance to the Nazis.

Which meant of course he was much closer to the then popular mindset than most of his avant-garde artist contemporaries.

 

And primitive fits his distinctive Expressionist painting style, developed especially when around age 42 he found his metier, Expressionist „modernist“ feet, just before WW1, c1909-14: coarse, ragged and colorful shapes, cropped, close up / in your face compositions, mask-like faces, figures with an element of the visceral, the grotesque and the crazy.

His 1913-14 ethnological visit to German New Guinea only whetted his existing appetite for the „primitive“, for he was already painting pictures of masks 2 years before, in 1911

 

He was an odd Modernist too in being older than his main contemporaries when he hit his straps around 1909 at age 42, except notably Kandinsky (who was a year older), also another Russian, fellow Expressionist Alexander Jawlensky (3 years older).

 

Like most people Nolde sought company and recognition, but his awkward personality constrained social engagement, and hence also his art training. For a time he was in the mix with other avant-garde painters (eg in particular when invited into Die Brucke, 190607), but temperamentally as well as politically he was out of step, the crusty old loner who quickly retreated from The Bridge, then from Berlin back to the rural Baltic.

 

His odd cocktail of circumstances became darkly comical after the Nazis took control in Germany early 1933 and especially when in 1937, unsurprisingly, the authorities deemed his colorful confronting modernism „degenerate“, showed him with other „degenerates“, and confiscated over 1000 works. The puzzled older artist (now near 70) pleaded for leniency, stressed his long running earnest and sincere support for Hitler and his Government!

 

2/ The lash not the latte? Die Peitsche nicht die Latte! The message not the aesthetic? Nolde fits in a 600 year long tradition of slightly mad, reactionary German art?

Here’s an original observation?

In seeking a wider perspective Nolde can be seen at least loosely as part of Germany (including the diverse collection of statelets it was pre the 19th C unification) having a long tradition of taking its art seriously, laboring the message not the aesthetic, and mostly favouring a reactionary nostalgic purpose, quasi-spiritual even, be it trumpeting Christianity or later calling on olden pagan Northern myths.

This  is head down not feet up art.

 

So Germany was slow to accept the emerging artistic and cultural thrust of the Renaissance, swam against the tide, particularly in the 14th and 15th centuries. Thus it contributed disproportionately to the so-called International Gothic art style, which tried to sustain the unnatural stylised Mediaeval painting, applied almost exclusively to asserting Christian iconography and per contra the radical shift to naturalism and realism which started in Italy late 13th / early 14th C with Pisano and Giotto.

This is evident for example in work of painters like the Master of the Třeboň Altarpiece  (active 1380-90, Prague), Master Francke (c1380-c1440), a German painter born in Lower Rhine, and the Master of the Karlsruhe Passion (active c1435-65), working in Strasbourg area.

Later, paradoxically, around 1500, as the High Renaissance was abroad in Italy and the Reformation was about to erupt across Europe, this anachronistic, reactionary neo-Mediaeval approach was then emphatically sustained by two stridently distinctive painters, Heironymous Bosch (1450-1516) in Flanders and Matthias Grünewald (c. 1470 – 1528) mostly in Mainz and Frankfurt. Both are probably far better known today than in their time, for their respective arresting contributions, their garish, visionary nightmarish proto-Surrealist imaginatons:  Bosch in a unique one man admonitory c20 year moral crusade on behalf of the Roman Church, and Grunewald for one mighty religious work, his 11 panels for the Isenheim Altarpiece (c1506-16) focussing on the life of Christ.  So both focussed exclusively on a didactic religious purpose, and both did so through graphic unnatural expression. Bosch’s younger contemporary, Hans Baldung Grien (c. 1484 – 1545), an apprentice to Durer, later based Strasbourg, also had a unique style and content, which also strayed into unnatural imagination and fantasy.

On the other hand the approach of the great virtuosic Albrecht  Durer (1471-1528) – based mainly Nuremberg but broadened particularly by visits to Italy (1494-95 and 1505-07), also the Netherlands (1520-21) – was more equivocal, painted many religious images but avoided the ominous dark Boschian approach.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder (no „h“) (c1525-1569) was a major Flemish artist in the mid 16th C, in the wake of the Reformation, now highly regarded and popular after about 3 centuries of neglect, and who died in his mid 40s, active for only c14 years.  Bruegel painted religious works but mostly set in wintry Netherlands landscapes, early ones of which looked back Joachim Patinir (1483-1524, also Antwerp-based), except for 3 paintings c1562, where he did briefly follow Bosch’s visionary nightmarish model.  Like Bosch a moralising theme threads his work, but in secular rural settings and he is now popular mostly for realistic depictions of peasant life.

 

Two other famous modern German artists, both slightly younger – Otto Dix (1891-1969) and George Grosz (1893-1959) – certainly fit the tradition of serious minded German art, Die Peitsche, in their fierce satirical assault on post WW1 Weimar Germany, through their graphic Expressionist leaning stylised realism (cf New Objectivity). But clearly they spoke from the other end of the political spectrum to Nolde, and were relentless, taking no time off for aesthetically therapeutic landscapes and still lives.

 

The slightly younger close contemporary Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956) was another German (American) painter who applied a modern artistic style to an anti-modern nostalgic purpose, leaving a raft of quasi-spiritual (Christian) aethereal luminous depictions of towns and churches, and seascapes and boats. But Feininger’ modern style was quite different toNolde, a much softer personal variant of Cubo-futurism, and incorporating a much louder aesthetic dimension than most of Nolde’s work.

However Nolde’s grotesque figures from his peak phase near and about WW1 do bear some resemblance to the distinctive elongated cartoon like figures in much of Feininger’s early painting (c 1910), which he carried over from his immediate prior career as a newspaper cartoonist.

On the other hand Feininger was far more conventional and social than Nolde, engaging far more closely with the art world, like his stint teaching with the Bauhaus.

 

Another distinctive Expressionist painter who Nolde met (in Munich?) and exhibited with, and whose work bears some comparison with Nolde, is the Russian expatriate (ie like Kandinsky) Alexei von Jawlensky (1864-1941).

Like Nolde he was also a late starter, but from very different circumstances. From a well off and well connected family he abandoned a military career for art. He was not overtly religious like Nolde though he was loosely “spiritual”and his many distinctive portraits / heads do draw on “traditional” roots, both Russian / Byzantine icons and “primitive” African sculpture.

Also, conspicuously, unlike Kandinsky (whose strong spiritualism, as for Mondrian, derived from the nonsensical strictures of Theosophy), neither Nolde nor Jawlensky crossed the line to pure abstraction.

 

Not surprisingly Nolde’s striking work has left its mark.

One can recognise American Modernist Marsden Hartley (1877-1943) in some of Nolde’s work (like Soldiers of 1913, which work Hartley may have seen in Germany near and at the start of WW1?

Also a couple of his works (like 1911, Figures exotiques 2 and Nature morte aux masques) seem to point directly to current market favourite Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-88).

 

3/ The reactionary Modernist: a keen Nazi supporter and a Christian.

Nolde was an unusual Expressionist artist.

His painting style from c1909 was radical but unlike most of his cosmopolitan and politically progressive avant-garde colleagues he was staunchly reactionary. His strong traditional religious beliefs and conservative political views were directly out of step.

From a young age Nolde was a devout Christian, then from c1909, after illness, and over a period of about 15 years, he painted many confronting unconventional religious works, traditional Christian subjects but in a jarring modern style. And then he was apparently puzzled and hurt the Church did not commission any such works, or hang them!

 

More controversially, but far from unusual given his roots, Nolde became an early (from early 1920s?) and vociferous supporter of Hitler and the Nazi Party, and a racist denouncer of Jews (eg refer to work by Stefan Koldehoff and the catalogue for 2014 Frankfurt exhibition, Aya Soika and Bernhard Fulda): „For as long as I’ve worked as an artist I have publicly battled against the foreign infiltration of German art, against the dirty dealings on the art market and the disproportionately predominant Jewish influence everywhere in the arts..” (Emil Nolde notes, 6th December 1938).” “The sentences following this declaration consist of glowing endorsements of the Führer, Volk and Fatherland.” (Stefan Koldehoff).

Then self-interest reinforced his public support when in 1937, to his puzzled chagrin, the Nazis deemed his painting style „degenerate“, confiscated over 1000 of his works (1052?) and assigned 48 to the infamous Degenerate Art exhibition, Entartete Kunst. To no avail he pleaded for overturn of their rulings, eg in person to to Nazi gauleiter Baldur von Schirach in Vienna. Instead, on the contrary, in 1941 they ordered him to cease painting, which he quietly ignored, then painting 100s of watercolors which he secreted,  calling them his “Unpainted Pictures“..

After WW2 however, like many Nazis, he quickly sought to evade responsibility, rewrite his history, cover his tracks, and (until recent times) with some official support.

 

4/ Driving his art content and style

Nolde was „spiritually“rooted to his locale in North Friesland in far north Germany, had a quasi-spiritual and nationalistic attachment, from 1902 taking his birthplace for his surname (Nolde is now in Denmark).

The main issues driving the content of his art were nature, religion, and the primal behaviour of people.

Nature he painted especially through his coastal home in north Germany, many landscapes and seascapes, through many floral still lives, also the Swiss mountains when he passed there as a young man.

His Christian religion was pivotal. These many important works started especially after illness in 1909, beginning with the Last Supper. Many followed, most like the Last Supper, then one crazy Noldesque one, Dance around the Golden Calf of 1910, culminating in his large neo-Mediaeval triptych of Life of Christ, 1911-12.

His woodcut of The Prophet (1912), dark and close, was an influential signature work, and later his Paradise (1921) was another arresting image, of a pivotal Biblical subject.

His attraction to what might be styled the primal passions of people is evident in his memorable depictions of the timeless theme of „dance“, but across various situations: like and children playing (1909, Wildly Dancing Children), and. like a night club (1914, Still life with dancers), and even, incongruously, religious settings! Like 1910‘s Dance Around the Golden Calf.

City life he saw in Berlin, then summer 1910 through the winter 1910-11 he explored Hamburg, the large northern port, painting many life scenes there, including cafes and night clubs, and including close up groups like the Slovenes and the Three Russians.

 

His art style, and longevity (thus avoiding two world wars and the great flu pandemic), allowed him to be prolific (eg  Athenaeum list 1236 works), and across different media. Beyond oil paintings he left many watercolors, also many prints, etchings and woodcuts and lithographs.

 

The essence of his Expressionist style was bold bright colour in ragged untidy in your face close-ups.  So his art style drew heavily on colour, lashings of, his „tempests of colour“ (Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976)), triggered especially it would seem by seeing works of Vincent van Gogh (1853-90) and Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) after around 1899.

Every colour holds within it a soul, which makes me happy or repels me..”, he wrote.

In his many group figurative images (secular and religious) he favoured crowded close ups (like some famous past artists, cf the later Bosch), painting coarse ragged primtive like figures, drawing on caricature, the grotesque.

 

His painting method was spontaneous and quick, starting with „an idea“, then „I became the copyist of the idea“, working from his imagination, with little detailed preconception or preparation. Thus he was also prolific.

 

5/ One man’s journey.

5.1/ His own man, an outsider more than most.

Like many notable artists he followed his own muse, was his own man.

Socially he was awkward, shy and reclusive, wanted friends and acceptance, but struggled.

So in art he was largely self taught, partly because he had to work his way up from humble farming roots as a craftsman, but then especially because once he finally could afford some training, like in Paris , his personality meant he struggled, was not an easy student. He wrote “Paris has given me very little, and I had expected so much.” (Peter Selz, op.cit.).

For a time, from c1905, he met other artists, keen to exchange views, but again struggled. Much older than the others (eg 40 compared with mid to late 20s) Nolde in 1907 left the important pioneering Die Brücke Expressionist group after only about a year, not getting enough his own way.

His powerful unconventional modern religious paintings, unusual as avant-garde subjects, also aroused dissent.

After Die Brücke he joined the Berlin Secession, a group which rejected the conventional Association of Berlin Artists and favoured  Post-Impressionism.

But 1910 he left that group after a “prolonged quarrel” following rejection of his 1910 Pentecost, and also works by other Exprssionists. He bitterly criticized Secession leader Max Liebermann (Jewish). Some of the rejected Expressionist painters (led by Tappert and Pechstein) in 1910 formed the breakaway Berlin Neue Secession, their first exhibition advertised as artists “rejected by the Berlin Secession 1910”. Nolde tried and failed in 1911 to take leadership of this group.

The art museum in Halle bought his Last Supper despite disagreement among the directors.

 

5.2/ Emergence as artist – largely self trained.

He was born Emil Hansen 1867 into an old devout Protestant farming family, one of 4 brothers, at Nolde in the western part of North Schleswig, then the Prussian (German) Duchy of Schleswig, becoming part of Denmark after WW1.

The German Expressionist painter and printmaker stayed close to his farming origins but not as a farmer, in 1884 (age 17) becoming an apprentice wood carver at a furniture factory (Sauermannsche Schnitzschule (Carving School)) at Flensburg, till 1888, thence 1889 (22) to work as a furniture carver at Karslruhe, taking art classes at night at Karlsruhe School of Applied Arts, then 1890-91 to Berlin as a furniture designer, but now drawing in museums. 1892-98 (age 25-31) he was a drawing instructor at Museum of Industry and Commerce in St Gallen in Switzerland and there finally encountered avant-garde art through Swiss painters, the neo-Romantic / Symbolist Arnold Bocklin (1827-1901) and Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918), impressed by their “allegorical, animistic” takes on nature, and by the dramatic natural scenery. Some financial success selling postcards of Symbolist like anthropomorphised mountains allowed him to seek further art training.

But 1899 he failed to enrol with Franz von Stuck in Munich, studied briefly instead at nearby Dachau with Adolf Hölzel (1853-1934), an interesting painter who at near age 60 helped pioneer abstraction, and who would have encouraged Nolde’s interest in colour.

He next spent 9 months in Paris to summer 1900, now studying at Académie Julian, where he met more new French art, but apparently departed very disappointed!

1900-02 he lived back near his roots, Copenhagen and nearby, 1903 settling on the island of Alsen, but also working in Berlin.

 

5.3/ Finds his feet

After a brief quiet start (cf Light be, 1901), and a visit to Italy 1904-05, by c1905 Nolde‘s distinctive colour hungry art style was becoming evident. In Nolde’s first colourful paintings c1905-07, mostly outdoors, like gardens and flowers, we see a clear line to especially van Gogh (eg Nolde‘s Harvest day, 1905, and Red flowers, 1906), and also Gauguin (eg Nolde‘s Market people, 1908).

But perhaps the immediate trigger of Expressionism in Germany, and presumably making a vital impact on Nolde was the Norwegian modern giant Edvard Munch (1863-1944), only 4 years older than Nolde but who made his mark much earlier, especially after being exposed in his mid-late 20s (c1889-1892) to the ongoing revolution in Paris, including Gauguin and van Gogh. Thus early as 1893 (age 30) Munch produced his first version his primally important The Scream. Later Nolde met Munch in Germany in 1906.

 

February 1906 Nolde was invited by the (17 years) younger Schmidt-Rottluff  (“one of Die Brücke’s undertakings is to attract any ferment of revolution….. And so, dear Mr Nolde….  we hereby wish to pay tribute to you for your tempests of colour”) to join the Dresden-based German Expressionist group Die Brücke (founded 1905 by Fritz Bleyl (1880–1966), Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976), Erich Heckel (1883-1970)  etc). Schmidt-Rottluff, then introduced him to woodcut. Others included Max Pechstein (1881-1955).

Gustav Schiefler who he met in Berlin after 1902 was an important supportive patron, collected his work, wrote, and later produced a catalogue raisonné of his prints.

 

His painting style thereafter was variations on the colorfully „Expressive“, reinforced by his pre WW1 contact with other German Expressionists, through Die Brücke and Der Blaue Reiter.

Thus in 1912 Nolde showed with Kandinsky’s (1866-1944) and Franz Marc’s (1880-1916) important Munich-based group Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), including Alexei von Jawlensky (1864-1941), Paul Klee (1879-1940), August Macke (1887-1914), Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956) and Albert Bloch (1881-1961).

 

The bold stylised art of “primitive” native people (especially sculpture, often accessed via museums) made a strong impressionon Nolde, as it had on many modern artists, and this was reinforced by being invited by the German Imperial Colonial Office to join a brief government ethnological excursion to German New Guinea, 1913-14, returning soon after WW1 broke out.

 

The other contemporary painter who resonates in some way with some of Nolde’s work was the Belgian James Ensor (1860-1949), 7 years older, and who Nolde visited in Ostend early 1911.

Ensor was similar to Nolde in a number of ways: he was also his own man, was also somewhat eccentric and reclusive; also painted Christian religious subjects (though less conventionally than Nolde, more as polemical expression of disllusion with the world); and finally, also he favoured elements of fantasy and the grotesque, especially for about a decade from the late 1880s (eg Masks Mocking Death, 1888), ie in his late 20s through 30s.

 

5.4/ And the rest

After WW1 when his home region became part of Denmark Nolde took Danish citizenship. Later, in 1927, he settled back near his roots by the North Sea coast, but at Seebüll, just inside the German border and today part of Neukirchen. There he built a house, now a museum.

Arguably the sting went out of Nolde’s work after the early 1920s, ie he in his mid 50s?

His output rate was far lower.

And in particular he retreated from his fierce slightly manic or frenzied Expressionist approach, from the aggressive style, and in the content, like no more of the many dance paintimgs, eg The Dancers (1920), and the quirky still lives, eg Striped goat and still life (1920).

There was still lots of colour but in a softer flat patchy style.

Lots of landscapes, lots of flowers, and some figures.

Then later, constrained by the Nazi rulings during WW2 he resorted to many small watercolours, his Unpainted paintings.

 

After his death in 1956 the Hamburg Kunstverein mounted a memorial exhibition at in 1957. Later he was exhibited in major exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1963); Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1995); Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (1995); Brücke-Museum, Berlin (1999); Grand Palais, Paris (2008); Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, Oslo (2012); and Frankfurt Städel Museum / Louisiana Museum of Modern Arts (2014).

 


 

SELECTED WORKS….

 

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1907, Magic of light, (Lichtzauber), Oil on canvas, 70 x 88 cm. Nolde Stiftung Seebull

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1910. Dance Around the Golden Calf, 88 x 105.5 cm

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1911, Nature morte aux masques, 74 X 78, Kansas City, Nelson Gallery of Art, Atkins-Museum

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1911 At the café (coffee house). Oil on canvas Museum Folkwang, Essen

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1912. Boy with Grande Bird. Oil on canvas, 73 x 88 cm, SMK (Statens Museum for Kunst), Copenhagen

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1912. The Prophet, 32.1 x 22.2 cm

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1912 Legend: St. Mary of Egypt – Death in the Desert, Heilige Maria Aegyptiaca – Rechte Tafel: Der Tod in der Wüste). 1912, oil on canvas (Kunsthale Hamburg, Hamburg).

COMMENT: The story was written in the 7th C, of Saint Mary (Maria Aegyptiaca) who lived in 5th or 6th C, born Egypt, sold her body for living, “driven “by an insatiable and an irrepressible passion,””, who traveled to Jerusalem, “paid for her passage by offering sexual favors”, there saw the light, was “struck with remorse” and lived rest of her life across the Jordan as a hermit. The lion helped bury her.

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1915. The Burial (Die Grablegung), oil on canvas, 87 x 117 cm, Stiftung Nolde, Seebüll, Nasjonalmuseet, National Museum of Art, , Architecture and Design, Norway

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1912. Candle Dancers (Kerzentänzerinnen), Oil on canvas, 100.5 x 86.5 cm, Nolde Stiftung Seebüll.

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1912. The Missionary, Private collection, 75 x 63 cm

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1913. Soldiers, Oil on canvas, 86.5 x 106 cm, Nolde Stiftung Seebüll.

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1914. Still life with dancers, oil on canvas 88 × 105.5 cm Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris

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1913 Clouds in Summer, Oil on canvas, 73.3 x 88.5 cm (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid)

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  1. Shivering Russians,103.5 x 118.9 x 5.3 cm, SMK (Statens Museum for Kunst), Copenhagen

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1917, Selbstbildnis, 1917, 83 x 65 cm, oil on wood. Nolde Foundation Seebüll , © Nolde Foundation Seebüll, 2013.

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1918. Blue Sea (Blaues Meer). Oil on canvas, 56 x 70cm, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

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1919 The enthusiast, Sprengel Museum Hanover 101.3 x 73.6cm

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1920 Encounter on the beach, 86.5 x 100 cm, Nolde Stiftung Seebüll

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1920 Still Life with Striped Goat, 75 x 88cm, private

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1920. Dancers

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C 1930? Sea coast (Red Sky, Two White Sails), watercolor on Japan paper, 22.3 x 17.1cm. Nolde Stiftung Seebüll

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1930. Schwü̈ler Abend (Muggy evening), Nolde Stiftung Seebüll

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Emil Nolde circa 1907? Age 40?                               And c 1945, age 78?

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Stuart Davis – always look on the bright side…?!

Stuart Davis (Dec. 1892 – July 1964, 71).

Always look on the bright side…?!

Rowed his own canoe! The keen Left wing bon vivant’s distinctive, ebullient modernism stayed oblivious to Capitalism’s greatest crisis! But richer for it?

 

FEATURED IMAGE: 1912 Self portrait, 81.9 x 66.7 cm, Promised Gift to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas

                                                                                                                                                            

Summary

  • Distinctive! His eventual style of flat, frantic, realistic faux-abstraction – colorful, calligraphical and Hard-Edged – was his alone.
  • Precocious early Expressionist realist paintings doorstepped his abrupt modernist style shift.
  • But then he was never abstract. Realism threading his complete oeuvre, start to finish. Yes from c1921 (around 30) his art flipped, harnessed Cubist inspired quasi-abstraction but never crossed over to abstraction, remained rooted in reality.
  • So his modernism adapted color, calligraphy and Cubist exploration to reflect the energetic drama of modern American life.
  • But not polemically. Thus curious indeed – extraordinary even – is how his avowedly Left wing politics never spilled over into polemical assault on the Capitalist beast, and despite him living through the Depression and two world wars!
  • Thus he jarred with the Social Realists like TH Benton (1889-1975), Edward Hopper (1882-1967) and George Bellows (1882-1925), let alone the affronted turbocharged German satirists!
  • Rather his purpose remained narratory and even aesthetic: his colorful, turbulent, jazz inspired confetti of cut outs and letters saluted the headlong dynamism of the modern economy and society.
  • But curious too, for a people person he painted no.. people! No portraits, genre groups.
  • How good was he? Very. His style trod water for the final couple of decades, but his original contribution – content and execution – was striking.
  • And maybe ultimately he was cleverer for remaining buoyant, not succumbing to rage against the then troubled zeitgeist.

 

Comment

  • Realism threads Davis’ art from woe to go.
  • Early on (from c1912, age 20) – precisely when the avant-garde in Europe was diving into pure abstraction – he precociously explored Expressionist realism, leaving some striking images, especially his tense, psychological 1912 Self portrait, also his bold Expressionist Self portrait of 1919, and various gritty cityscapes recalling the NY Ash Can realist school, and even a few landscapes, which hint of Munch and Van Gogh.
  • His bright start earned him inclusion in the historic Armory Show of modern European art (International Exhibition of Modern Art, he included 5 watercolours), in New York early in 1913 (aged just over 20), which show also understandably shook his appreciation of modern art.
  • But not before c1921 did his style finally shift abruptly, lurch towards modernism (eg Lucky Strike (1921), The tree and the urn (1921), Still life (red) (1922), and Landscape Gloucester (1922)). In his own Synthetic Cubist take he adapted, tapped Cubism, applied it to modern American material life, dwelt on banal but real material items like cigarette papers and garages and egg beaters. Thus while he therefore leaned toward abstraction he stayed “real”.
  • But his Modernist progression or development was not linear. His 1918 trip to Havana he recorded in colourful representational works on paper, some of which recall the German-American Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956), also a distinctive accomplished illustrator. Then not before the late 1920s, near 40, did he settled into coarse textured Hard-edge Color Field (HE-CF) faux-abstraction, particularly in the Eggbeater Presciently, his paintings of mundane consumer goods clearly presaged the Pop Art of the 60s, about 40 years hence.
  • But visiting Paris in 1928 he felt compelled to stay more representational in recording post card-like street scenes. And also more obviously realistic was his famous Hopper-esque House and street (1931).
  • Then in the late 1930s – especially starting with the large (4.4 x 2.2m) Swing landscape (1938, stemming from the Williamsburg Housing Project commission and based on the Gloucester (Mass.) waterfront) – he found his now familiar later style: still flat and colourful, but now busier “all over” HE-CF, which style he stayed with more or less for the next 25 years.
  • This style, still born of the Cubism of Braque and Picasso, now drank from Matisse, Léger and Miro, artists he met partly through additional important exhibitions in New York? Some of these images levered off natural scenes (eg Arboretum by Flashbulb, 1942), but mostly they drew on urban life and settings.
  • These images look disordered or spontaneous, but apparently were not, rather were products of “protracted gestation”.
  • About 10-20 years older than the main Abstract Expressionist (AE) painters he is not counted as an Abstract Expressionist painter though his flat bright colour affiliates with the CF pole of AE, and the busy scrambled content of paintings like Swing Landscape (1938) and The Mellow Pad (1945-51) points loosely to Pollock’s “gesturalism”.
  • But in some ways he is as interesting, for how the content of his semi-abstract work remained rooted in reality, fastened to the present material world, especially responding directly to the energy, vibrancy, change, and conflict of [American] contemporary life…. the upheaval of the city, the tranquility of the seaside, industry and the automobile, cafe society, sports, consumer packaging, tobacco, appliances, and jazz music and its lingo.”(Met,NY). And also, like the eminent Dutch refugee abstractionist, Piet Mondrian, who had arrived NY 1940, Davis was mad about jazz, which also fed his images
  • He was also political, avowedly and actively Left (eg in campaigning for artists rights), but oddly this did not sour his appetite for depicting modern life in an apparently buoyant energetic descriptive manner. He did not polemically malign or satirise the Capitalist beast about him, even though he lived through its greatest crisis. For him there was no hint of the forthright Daumier or Grosz. “A hedonist to the core” writes Robert Storr (New York Review of Books, August 2016).
  • Interestingly Storr also rightly wonders whether some work of the immigrant Abstract Expressionist Arshile Gorky responded to Davis’ Cubist recipes.
  • And others (Karen Sullivan and Delores McBroome, Art and Antiques magazine, December 1989) wonder if the composition of Picasso’s Guernica (1937) was not inspired by Davis’ 1932 mural (nicknamed Men without women) for the Men’s Lounge of Radio City Music Hall, which work by Davis was well publicised.
  • Perhaps striking is that Davis, clearly a people person, painted no people paintings. No portraits or genre groups. Not even in his early realist phase. A few self portraits is all, and good too.

 

Current major exhibition

“Stuart Davis: In Full Swing” is at the  Whitney Museum of American Art through September 25. It will continue at the National Gallery of Art in Washington from November 20, 2016 through March 5, 2017, at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco from April 8 through August 6, 2017, and at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas from September 16, 2017 through January 8, 2018

 

Highlighted works by Stuart Davis….

 

  1b

1912, Tenement Scene, oil on canvas, 73.99 x w: 91.77 cm, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

 

  1c

1913, Ebb Tide – Provincetown, oil on canvas, 96.52 x 76.2 cm

 

1d

Street Scene with Cathedral, Havana 1920 watercolor on paper 35.56 x w: 50.8 cm

  1e

1921, Lucky Strike,  84.46 x 45.72 cm, MOMA.

 

1f

1922, Landscape, Gloucester, oil on canvas, 30.48 x w: 40.97 cm

 

   1g

  1. Eggbeater No 1, gouache on board, 36.2 x 45.42 cm, Whitney Museum of American Art

 

1h

Matches No. 1, 1927, gouache on cardboard, 31.75 x 24.76 cm

 

1i

Rue Descartes 1929 gouache, ink, and pencil on paper 32.08 x 47.32 cm

 

1j

1928, Egg Beater No. 4, gouache on illustration board, 33.66 x 47.32 cm, The Phillips Collection

 

1k

1931, House and Street, 66.4 × 107 cm, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York,

 

1l

Artist in Search of a Model 1931 gouache on paper 27.3 x 46.99 cm

 

1m

1938, Swing Landscape, Oil on canvas, 220.34 x 439.75 cm. COMMENT: a LARGE WPA Brooklyn mural, made for a government-funded housing project in Brooklyn. Hard-edge “Color-Field” abstract develops. But with figurative motifs.

 

1n

 

1945-51, The Mellow Pad, oil on canvas, 66.7 x 107 cm, Brooklyn Museum of Art. COMMENT: painted over six years

 

1o.

 1932/1942–1954, American Painting, 101.6 x 127.64 cm, University of Nebraska at Omaha

 

1p

1954, Colonial Cubism, oil on canvas, 114.63 x 153.04 cm, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

 

1q

1956, Stele, oil on canvas, 132.72 x 101.93 cm, Milwaukee Art Museum

 

A LONG LOOK AT LYONEL – HE STOOD WAIST DEEP IN THE birth of the MODERN BUT THE neo-romantic LOOKED BACK THROUGH his new COLORFUL CUBIST LENSES

Prologue

The White Man (1907) was the first painting I saw by Lyonel Feininger, , glanced at early 2013. And one noticed. Digging further I found he was different. And later I discovered he was also a cyclist, like Braque and Beckett. Later in 2013 I cycled near Weimar too, but before I understood Feininger and Weimar.

 

Wednesday 24th December 2014 / Saturday 24th January 2015
 

A LONG LOOK AT LYONEL – HE STOOD WAIST DEEP IN THE MODERN BUT THEN LOOKED BACK THROUGH his new COLORFUL CUBIST LENSES

Feininger was an intriguing painter. He was different, a singular Modernist who rode his own race, who began painting in the creative frenzy in Europe just before WW1 but then – older than some others – applied the new painterly ways (color and Cubism) distinctively to his own earnest Neo-Romantic vision.

 

So he liked a good sunset!

“Windows reflect, yawning and dark low down, silver above; and at the very top… where they reflect the blue sky. They are deep blue… Reflecting windows – no one has ever suggested this to me, this is all mine, and I give it to you.. reflecting windows. Even when I was a little boy, in the country, how much I loved them….

Sunset, everything in gold and purple half-tones, and in one spot, right in the very far distance…two or three rows of windows facing west, throwing back the gold of the sky like spears, transforming the whole picture in an indescribably beautiful tone. In the already dying eastern sky, the goodnight sky, there are suddenly pieces like jewels from the sun-irradiated western sky, just put there frankly and impudently.. at times like this I know that I am not just one of the crowd.”

From a letter to Julia Berg (1905) who became his second wife.

 

Though he started painting middle of that remarkable decade before WW1, and associated with many of the main art movers in Paris and Germany, Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956, died age 85) was not a front rank Modernist artist. Instead he stood apart – consciously? – and applied the new Modern painting ways – especially color and Cubism – in his own idiosyncratic and prolific way (paintings, drawings & woodcuts) to a nostalgic deep seated personal Romantic vision, first to energetic caricatured townscapes (drawing on his substantial cartooning career), and later to atmospheric Neo-Romantic architectural townscapes / churchscapes & seascapes, evoking for him the sublime, the divine? Wedded to this vision his art did not cross to abstraction, and also did not obviously reflect the calamitous times he lived through, like some others? Such as his Bauhaus associate Paul Klee?

 

SUMMARY

Lyonel Feininger was not a full bore Modern painter, not part of the preoccupied innovative avant-garde. Instead he remained Old Fashioned, straddled the old and new, with always an eye over his shoulder and as the song goes, doing it his way.

This may be because he was a bit older and came to painting later, though he was 5 years younger than his friend Kandinsky, and two years younger than Matisse, both full bore Modernists, and much more famous for it.

But reality was artists reacted to the then rampaging Modern in various ways. Some keenly embraced it, many ignored it,and some like Feininger took what they needed.

So for whatever reason he grew up to emerge with a heartfelt personal Neo-Romantic mindset. He loved a good sky drama, fell in love with beautiful countryside, the seaside, and he liked people. So he rode his own race, stood alone, and became a singular artist for it, painted / woodcut a large distinctive oeuvre, most easily recognised as a work by Feininger.

In particular he applied the new Modern painterly styles keenly, prolifically and idiosyncratically to his own pre-Modern life view, first in his cartoon-like caricatured nostalgic townscapes, and second to his lyrical, atmospheric Neo-Romantic architectural townscapes & seascapes, which recall the CD Friedrich’s advocatory spiritual Romantic landscapes, fumbling for the sublime, the divine. Coincidentally Feininger summered 1892 at Rügen on the Baltic, where Friedrich located his famous Chalk cliffs on Rügen (1818).

Thus he was also attracted early to the soaring verticals of Gothic church architecture. Recollections of early visits to the Met in NYC were reinforced later in Europe, early on in Belgium, then in Germany, especially in the Weimar area after 1905.

Thus “I am not the most modern [artist]; rather a person who must break with his time in order to live. Thus I may live behind the times.” (quoted by Bryan Gilliam, catalogue for the major 2011 US retrospective at the Whitney American Museum of Art, ” Lyonel Feininger: At the Edge of the World”). His sensitive Romantic mindset was evident in his childhood and stayed with him, like the 34 year old writing (above) in 1905 on “Reflecting windows” to his new flame Julia.

Apparently he saw JMW Turner’s work in London in 1908 but this does not seem to have directly impacted his art, though obviously both artists in their respective ways explored light effects in numinous Romantic landscapes.

Was Lyonel a (German) Expressionist painter? No, otherwise the term becomes too broad as to be meaningless? It usually, and sensibly, refers, for example, to Die Brücke (The Bridge), a group formed in Dresden in 1905 by Kirchner, Heckel, Schmidt-Rottluff and others, later adding Nolde and Pechstein. Feininger knew and worked among these painters, but his work is much quieter and less “emotional”.

Despite some quasi-abstract images (eg Harbor Mole (1913), Bridge V (1919), Gaberndorf I (1921), and especially Cloud (1936)), Feininger stayed figurative / representational, anchored to the visual objective, having no interest in the fashionable Modern abstraction movements. He preferred to work powerfully with the light and form in many townscapes & seascapes, but infused by spiritual import and humanity. Invited later by American Abstract Artists to join their group, he replied, “My artistic faith is founded on a deep love of nature, and all I represent or have achieved is based on this love.”

He was religious, a Christian and it showed in his art. He wrote of his “‘unbounded faith in the goodness of the Almighty’ and in art’s capacity to express it.” (Barbara Haskell, Lyonel Feininger: At the Edge of the World, 2011). Both Kandinsky and Mondrian were also religious, or spiritual, except, by contrast, their emphatic approach to pursuing their beliefs through art was abstraction.

Feininger’s painting was apparently also influenced by his important musical skills and interests, especially Bach and 19th C German Romantic music. One critic suggests the “strict architectural patterns of Bach’s music” helped inspire his later famous distinctive Cubist townscapes and seascapes. But also he saw both art and music as serving to unlock the numinous, the spiritual.

His most original works are the early caricatured, grotesque figured street scene paintings (c1907-1918), fantasy images, what he called his “mummery pictures”, which in turn flowed from his long successful career in Berlin cartooning for newspapers, which may in turn draw on impressions from his Manhattan childhood, when his parents (whom he later facetiously labelled ”hypothetical”!) were often touring with their music, leaving young Lyonel alone with his musings.

His best works – sustained idioyncratic application of Modernist painting ways to his pet subjects – include some of these striking caricatured street ensembles, like the early The White Man (1907), one of his first paintings and where already we meet the Mannerist elongated figure, the grotesque dangly gangling man; and the noisy Carnival in Arcueil (1911); the curvaceous Cubist-caricatured Jesuits III (1916), his record priced painting (23$m, 2007); the Green Bridge II (1916), with its Feininger trademark curvy conchoidal fracturing ; and the Cubist-caricatured The Lady in Mauve (1922).

They include some of his many woodcuts, like Buildings and The Cathedral, both 1919.

And they include some of his later striking atmospheric Neo-Romantic townscapes and seascapes, the lyrical crystalline in paintings like Barfusserkirche (or Church of the Minorities, Erfurt, 1923); the spectral light in Blue Marine (1924); the micaceous-flaked sky in Bird Cloud (1926), the Cubo-kinetic Sailing Boats (1929), and majestic Stiller Tag Am Meer III (Calm at Sea III, 1929).

He wrote 1912, “What is seen must be inwardly re-formed and crystallised”. He drew on Cubism but applied it in his own representational way, to his own Neo-Romantic.mindset.

Unusual paintings include The Bicycle Race (1912), a people painting but directly reflecting his fresh exposure to Cubism, one of his first “Cubist” paintings and also reminding us of Italian Futurists? And The Bridge V (1919) where the “crystalline Cubist” style stops not far from full abstraction, and Portrait of a Tragic Being (1920), even more unusual, a frank quasi-abstract Expressionist portrait, which may refer to the sorrowful aftermath of ww1.

Throughout his career, and especially through his busy 1910-20 decade, his output tended to mingle his various styles.

Perhaps oddly for a social person he painted very few portraits: just two self portraits, the first from 1910, the man reflective and elegant behind a pink tie and a toy boat hat, and the striking second version 5 years later, age 44, now a fierce bull-necked lobotomised man, a Cubist-caricature cross? But no others? None of friends or even his wife Julia?

And yet he saw his art – his streetscapes, churches, seascapes – embodying “humanity”: “I don’t suppose I’ll ever represent human subjects in the normal sense in my pictures: but on the other hand humanity is the only thing that moves me in everything.Without warm human feelings I can’t do anything..

His unique Trans-Atlantic career was shaped by history. He was at heart European / German, living half a century in Europe (Germany / France), but his career was book-ended each side by the United States. Thus he was born and raised in New York City of German parentage, then at 16 was gone to Europe, to Germany, where he ducked violin study in Leipzig for art training in Hamburg, then Berlin. Then exactly 50 years later he was dumped back into NYC by ww2, back to his childhood! But the uprooting at 66 hurt. He did not resume painting for about two years, around late 1939, and when he did he often returned to old motifs, eg The Anglers, Black Bridge (1942), which is straight from a 1916 watercolour and ink.

He wrote to his son T. Lux in 1939: “In the beginning I suffered a great deal from the feeling of being out of place. But now all I feel is a huge advantage in the fact that I was in Europe for so long. That is where my work sources its impulse.”

The disruption complicated his life, thus his US citizenship was an issue in Germany during ww1, and then his long German experience was a problem (if minor?) for his reputation in the US after ww1, as was for Marsden Hartley his (shorter) Berlin adventures.

His was an unusual road to painting. From the early 1890s, based in Berlin, he built a sustained and very successful early career over about 15 years as an illustrator / cartoonist, creating satirical cartoons and comic strips for European and US newspapers. “[Feininger] ist he first among the Berlin graphic artists”, Georg Hermann, 1901. Then only in his mid 30s did he finally begin painting, “drawn by a “thirst for serious work”. But his switch to painting was also triggered by his discovery of the Weimar country, via his new love Julia, and by his (second) visit to Paris, in 1906. What a time for a budding painter to visit Paris, middle of a pivotal decade in art history. In 1906/07 he met Fauvist art and work by Cezanne and Van Gogh. And a follow up visit about 4 years later, in 1911, when Cubism was spreading, triumphing after its origins with Braque and Picasso in 1907 and 1908, cemented the Modernist painting styles he was to apply for the rest of his life. In 1911 he met Robert Delaunay and his Orphic Cubism, and in May 1911 six of his paintings were hung in the Paris Salon des Independents.

Subsequently in Germany he became a successful painter, well connected and well collected. He met and worked with many major art figures in Germany, eg the Berlin Secession (from around 1903 through 1913), the important Die Brucke (the German Expressionists) in 1912, and Der Blaue Reiter (Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky) in 1913, then the Novembergruppe at end 1918 (Max Pechstein et al), and in 1919 the Dresdener Secession (Otto Dix et al).

A solo exhibition Sep. 1917 at Herwarth Walden’s Der Sturm Berlin gallery was a career turning point.

Then in 1919 he was the first artist hired (as “Master of Form”) by Walter Gropius for the Bauhaus, joined by many others, in particular Kandinsky and Paul Klee. And remained with the Bauhaus its whole span, transferring later to Dessau, then Berlin where in 1933 it closed for good after the Nazi accession to power January 1932.

As per the Robert Frost poem, Feininger walked his own road, and his work remained largely detached from the drama of his times. He remained largely unscathed by his close contact with then popular German Expressionism. He lived in Germany through WW1 (aged 43 in 1914), and later through the economic and political breakdown of the 1930s, including having his own art branded “Degenerate” by the Nazis, finally forcing his exit.

In a 1917 letter to Adolf Knoblauch he wrote, ambiguously: “The most terrible world events are weighing us down and are leaving their gloomy traces in my pictures… what could be more natural than my recurrent struggles for a kind of cheerfulness”). But generally his art seemed not to overtly reflect the dark times, like, oddly enough, his more famous associate Paul Klee,but in stark contrast to others like Max Beckmann and Otto Dix.

His response was more subtle, oblique and escapist? There may be dark ironic “cheerfulness” in the grotesque figured streetscapes? But his many Neo-Romantic townscape / seascape paintings seem like a refuge or retreat from the violent secular unrest. One frank watercolour Untitled (Deserted child) from 1915 is an exception.

Feininger was industrious through a long life, compiled a diverse and prolific oeuvre: countless drawings, many woodcuts. As well as many paintings, oil and watercolour. He even made and painted toys for his children and friends, and toy trains. And he took photographs, used their effects in his painting?

We can call him the cartooning Neo-Romantic Cubist. To his early paintings he brought his extensive cartooning illustration skills, especially in his comedic grotesque caricature figured street and town scenes, exaggerated, and garishly colored by the Fauves, and Delaunay? Maybe this art taps also his childhood fantasy for toys and characters? One critic sees Kandinsky’s early folk art references here? Maybe. And August Macke’s “fascination with fantasy” and his “Fauvist palette”. Maybe.

Then his 1911 immersion in a Paris alive with Cubism impacted dramatically. He emerged painting atmospheric, luminous / translucent, fractured “prismatic” townscapes, especially churches and other buildings, like Zirchow VII (1918), and Kirche über Stadt (1927). And he soon started adding seascapes, usually with boats, eg Side wheel steamer at landing (1912), Sidewheeler II (1913) and Boats (1917).

Initially he applied Cubism to his elongated caricature figures (like Angler with blue fish and Bathers on the beach, both 1912, and Am strande, 1913). And he used Cubist conchoidal curves in The Bridge (1913, at Oberweimar). More often it was straight lines, the rigorous Gothic vertical (eg Gelmeroda III (1913) and VIII (1921)), or an intense crystalline fracturing (eg Gelmeroda IV (1913) and VII (1917), Tortum II (1925), and Bird Cloud (1926)).

There is a profound reflective Neo-Romantic spiritual atmosphere in many of these paintings, which he reinforces by inserting tiny human figures. He clearly recalls, evokes CD Friederich, if not quite so single-mindedly. Thus painting was, he said, “a path to the intangibility of the divine.”

He was a man of habit in his painting, thus his kitbag of styles did not change much after about 1920 (age 49), and he kept revisiting subjects, themes, motifs, like the comic people scenes and the Romantic “prismatic” townscapes, and like certain locations, especially the small Gelmeroda church near Weimar (13 renditions?), where the tall steeple captured his attention, and nearby (to the east) Oberweimar, where he gave the bridge a working over (The Bridge (1913), The Bridge III (1917) The Bridge V (1919), as he did the church at Zirchow, by the Baltic (7 renditions?!).

And he liked the sea, and boats on the sea, popular motifs, dating back to his childhood in Manhattan, near the East River, then reinforced by many summers by the Baltic. Other than oil paintings many watercolours also flowed, like later simple quizzical geometric images Boats with yellow sails on red water (1933), Sailing ship heading left (1934).

And he liked embedding people, sometimes lone figures, in the later townscapes and seascapes, the individuals dwarfed by a cathedral, or the sea or the firmament. Painting individuals swallowed by cathedrals or marine skies might be an oblique reference to individuals swallowed helplessly by the then catastrophic unravelling of Europe, but much more likely is they were part of Feininger’s singular Romantic vision, man spiritually integrated but minute and anonymous before God’s Creation.

Later we also see a mysterious small black square motif appear in some of his Manhattan paintings, like Manhattan dawn (1944) and the muted near abstract The Spell (1951, aged 80!), maybe a late reference back to his ‘reflecting windows’?

His forced relocation back to the US in 1937 did not rupture continuity in his work? Obviously NYC had grown a lot and the verticals of the skyscrapers appeared in paintings, like Blue skyscrapers (1937), and Manhattan I and II (1940).

Maybe the big schooner sailing an ominous tourmaline crystal sea in Mid ocean (1937) reflects the mood of his abrupt move. There is a subtle abstract reference to WW2 in Storm brewing (1939), a late grotesque in Blind musician at the beach (1942), late abstract musing in Chimney pots (1951), and finally the angular colourful Manna-Hatta (1952) is unmistakeably by Mr Feininger.

References / bibliography

Lyonel Feininger, Sailing Ship with Blue Angler”, Lyonel-Feininger-Galerie, Quedlinburg, 2006.

Lyonel Feininger: At the Edge of the World (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011; exhibition catalogue)

Paintings referenced:

ah-art feininger 1913 Harbor Mole, 1913,  Carnegie Museum of Art, PA

Harbor Mole (1913),

ah-art feininger 1919 Bridge V

Bridge V (1919),

ah-art feininger 1921 Gaberndorf_1-80x100KopieLyonel_Feininger

Gaberndorf I (1921),

ah-art Feininger 1936 Cloud   Wolke

Cloud (1936),

ah-art FEININGER 1907 Lyonel  white man 1907, tYhyssen sm

The White Man (1907),

Carnival in Arcueil

Carnival in Arcueil (1911),

ah-art feininger 1915 jesuits III a

Jesuits III (1916),

ah-art feininger 1922 Lady in Mauve 05-FEININGER006

The Lady in Mauve (1922),

ah-art feininger 1919 Buildings, woodcut, MOMA ah-art feininger 1919 cathedral (2)

Woodcuts: Buildings and The Cathedral, both 1919.

ah-art feininger 1924 BarfuesserkircheI stuttgart sm

Barfusserkirche (or Church of the Minorities, Erfurt, 1923),

,ah-art feininger 1924 blue-marine (2)

Blue Marine (1924)

ah-art Feininger 1926 bird-cloud sm SS

Bird Cloud (1926),

ah-art Feininger 1929 Sailing boats Blue-orange-1024x618

Sailing Boats (1929),

ah-art feininger 1929 Stiller_Tag_am_Meer_3.Kopie_50X40

Stiller Tag Am Meer III (Calm at Sea III, 1929),

ah-art feininger 1912 Bicycle race a

The Bicycle Race (1912),

ah-art feininger 1920 Portrait-of-a-Tragic-Being-1920-large-1342233180

Portrait of a Tragic Being (1920),

ah-art feininger 1942 The-Anglers Black-Bridge_306632_l   435 x 585 mm

The Anglers, Black Bridge (1942),

ah-art feininger 1915 deserted child

Untitled (Deserted child) 1915

ah-art feininger 1918 zirchow VII Lyonel Feininger - Tutt'Art@ (24)

Zirchow VII

ah-art feininger 1927 Kirche über Stadt,   D Bank

Kirche über Stadt (1927)

ah-art Feininger 1912 angler with  blue fish ah-art feininger 1912 bathers-on-the-beach-i-1912-1912

Angler with blue fish and Bathers on the beach, (both 1912).

ah-art Feininger 1913 am strande

Am strande, 1913

ah-art feininger 1913 Bridge I

The Bridge (1913),

ah-art Feininger 1913 GELMERODA III, 1913,  National Galleries of Scotland

Gelmeroda III (1913)

ah-art feininger 1921 GELMERODA viii

Gelmeroda VIII (1921),

ah-art feininger 1915 GELMERODA IV, 1915. Oil on canvas,  (100 x 79.7 cm) gugg

Gelmeroda IV (1915),

ah-art Feininger 1917 GELMERODA VII

Gelmeroda VII (1917),

ah-art feininger 1925 Torturm II sm

Tortum II (1925),

ah-art Feininger 1926 bird-cloud sm SS

Bird Cloud (1926),

ah-art feininger 1917 Bridge III, Cologne museum

The Bridge III (1917)

ah-art feininger 1944 manhattan dawn (88.1 x 70.2 cm) Chicago

Manhattan dawn (1944)

The Spell

The Spell (1951)

ah-art feininger 1937 blue skyscrapers Watercolor and India ink on laid paper,(31.1 x 24.4 cm) lge

Blue skyscrapers (1937),

ah-art feininger 1940 manhattan I lge ah-art feininger 1940 manhattan II

Manhattan I and II (1940)

ah-art Feininger 1937 mid ocean

Mid ocean (1937)

ah-art feininger 1910 self portrait with clay pipe

Self portrait (1910)

ah-art feininger 1915 sp 06-FEININGER007

Self portrait (1915)

 

Reference

Lyonel Feininger, Sailing Ship with Blue Angler”, Lyonel-Feininger-Galerie, Quedlinburg, 2006.

Gelmeroda, 31st July 2014

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