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Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956)
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Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956)

Die Grüne Brücke

Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956)
Die Grüne Brücke
signed 'Feininger' (lower left)
oil on canvas
39 7/8 x 31¾in. (101.3 x 80.7cm.)
Painted in 1909
The artist and thence by descent to Dr. Laurence Feininger (the artist's son), Trento.
Roman Norbert Ketterer, Campione d'Italia.
F. L. Schwarz, New York, by whom purchased from the above in July 1965; his sale, Christie's New York, 18 October 1977, lot 35.
Purchased from the above sale by the present owner.
H. Hess, Feininger, Stuttgart 1959, pp.47, 48 and p.252, no.44 (illustrated)
D. Gordon, Modern Art Exhibitions 1900-1916, vol. II, Munich, 1974, p. 479.
Paris, Quai d'Orsay, Salon des Indépendants, La 27ième Exposition, April-June 1911, no. 2179.
Dresden, Secession Gruppe, 1919.
Erfurt, Kunstvereinsheim, November 1921.
Breslau, 1929, no. 1.
Berlin, Nationalgalerie, L. Feininger, 1931, no.5.
Minneapolis, Minneapolis University Gallery, Presenting Lyonel Feininger: a retrospective, April 1938, no. 27 (?).
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Feininger-Hartley, October 1944- January 1945, no.4.
Cleveland, The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Work of Lyonel Feininger, November-December 1951, no.1.
San Francisco, Museum of Art, L. Feininger Memorial Exhibition, November-December 1959, no.2; this exhibition later travelled to Minneapolis, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Boston, 1960.
New York, Willard Gallery, Lyonel Feininger: Architecture Paris-New York.
Dortmund, Museum am Ostwall, Lyonel Feininger-Kleine Blätter, aus der Sammlung Dr. Laurence Feininger-Trient.
Florence, Palazzo Strozzi, XXVI Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Mostra dell' Espressionismo, 1964, no.84.
Campione d'Italia, R. N. Ketterer, Moderne Kunst II, 1965, no. 30.
Campione d'Italia, R. N. Ketterer, L.Feininger, 1965, no.1.
Pasadena, The Pasadena Art Museum, Lyonel Feininger Memorial Retrospective, April-May 1966, no. 4.
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Lyonel Feininger 1871-1956, March-May 1973, no. 71 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Zurich, Kunsthaus Zurich, May-July 1973.
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Lot Essay

The present work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné currently being prepared by Achim Moeller and we are grateful to him for his assistance in the preparation of this catalogue entry.

As Hans Hess was the first to point out, Feininger's work is informed by the thought: "How would the world appear if it were slightly different?" Nowhere is this feature of his approach to painting more apparent than in his first paintings of 1908 to 1910. These vibrantly coloured and highly atmospheric works conjure a picture of a world that is slightly askance from the one we know. Feininger called them paintings of the "city at the end of the world."

These portraits of a strange but familiar urban life are one of the first examples of an artist 'expressionising' the city; giving the metropolitan landscape a personality of its own and infusing it with a life by making it echo human emotions and reverberate human energy. Feininger achieves these effects by heightening the unreal atmosphere of the town with the use of garish and deliberately clashing colour and by elongating and distorting the buildings of the city in a way that deliberately mimics and echoes the elongation, leaning gait and lopsided walks of its tall inhabitants.

Die Grüne Brücke ("The Green Bridge") depicts a busy street scene at dusk. Receding through the centre of the painting, the long and narrow street is bordered by a row of deep pink houses that seems to lean in varying directions and tremble with their own energy and life. This warm colouring is contrasted directly with the cool turquoise of the sky and the pale green arch of the monumental bridge that gives the painting its title. In addition the street is littered with the fluttering patterns of colour that are created by the flat coloured forms of Feininger's caricature-like figures. The colours of these flat cut-out forms have been carefully orchestrated to lead the hustle and bustle of the city street. Feininger, who until 1908 had made his living as a celebrated illustrator and cartoonist, derived this technique from forms he remembered from his childhood. "My ideal" he recalled, "was to build up pictures formed of silhouetted objects. Like some of M.'s (my mother's) early paper cut-outs. And again, I had seen Schiessbuden (shooting gallery) figures, cut of sheet iron and painted in a simple array of more or less violent colours, with no modelling. Light and shade and all the atmosphere you can impart to a painting will still not solve the ultimate problem of painting, which is based upon spatial interrelationships - and in modern painting, which in many ways is less 'modern' than 13th and 14th Century art, it is the disposition of the spatial structure which is important above all other elements of the picture, and this spatial structure must be logically reduced to the greatest possible simplicity of parts. Simple, large colour planes keyed together on the painting surface, is the aim; not photographically diversified modulation of colour. Clear forms, which carry the space element and the subject in all simplicity and directness." (July 2, 1946 - reproduced in City at the Edge of the World, T.Lux Feininger, London, 1965, p. 35.)

The bridge dominating the composition is probably based on the aqueduct at Arcueil which so impressed Feininger when he first saw it on a visit to the town in 1906. The huge arches of the aqueduct became a regular architectural feature in his imaginary representations of the 'city at the end of the world.'

"The slightest difference in relative proportions creates enormous differences with regard to the monumentality and intensity of the composition." Feininger had written in 1906, "Monumentality is not attained by making things larger - how childish! - but by contrasting large and small in the same composition. On the size of a postage stamp one can represent something gigantic, while yards of canvas may be used in a smallish way and squandered." (quoted in Lyonel Feininger -Marsden Hartley, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1944, p. 18).

Feininger's tendency to stress the monumental in his work has been noted by Hans Hess who commented that the sense of scale and elongation in Die Grüne Brücke suggested that it was Feininger's "own feeling for height, the projection of his own slim angular figure (which) found an echo and identification in tall structures. He seems to have projected his feeling of height not only into the movement of his figures, but also into the movement of buildings." (Lyonel Feininger, London, 1961, pp.47-8)

The green bridge does not just divide the composition and lend the work a dramatic intensity however, it also creates what Hess has called a "mysterious relationship" between the figures on the bridge and those in the lantern-lit alley below. This clear compositional division seems to separate the figures into two different classes and hints at an unjust social divide in Feininger's imaginary city - one that anticipates perhaps, the carnival-like revolution of a painting like the Museum of Modern Art's Uprising of 1910.

The present painting has been in the same private collection since its purchase at Christie's in 1977.


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