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

Figures on the Seashore (Am Strand)

Details
Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956)
Figures on the Seashore (Am Strand)
signed 'Feininger' (lower left); signed and dated 'Lyonel Feininger 1933' (on the stretcher); signed and dated again and inscribed 'Lyonel Feininger 1933 "Figures on the Seashore"' (on a label affixed to the stretcher)
oil and black Conté crayon on canvas
15 7/8 x 20 ½ in. (40.3 x 52.2 cm.)
Painted in 1933
Provenance
The artist's estate.
Julia Feininger, New York, by descent from the above.
Pamela Colin (Lady Harlech), London, a gift from the above in 1967; sale, Christie's, New York, 10 May 1995, lot 59.
Michelle Rosenfeld Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above; sale, Sotheby's, London, 8 February 2005, lot 27.
H.F. 'Gerry' Lenfest, Philadelphia; sale, Christie's, New York, 13 May 2016, lot 1313.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Literature
H. Hess, Lyonel Feininger, New York, 1961, no. 357, p. 282 (illustrated).
E. Scheyer, Lyonel Feininger, Caricature and Fantasy, Detroit, 1964, p. 147.
H. Schulz-Vanselow, Lyonel Feininger und Pommern, Kiel, 1999, p. 234.
Exhibited
Los Angeles, Los Angeles Museum, The Blue Four, Feininger, Jawlensky, Kandinsky, Paul Klee, October 1933, no. 11.
Oakland, California, Mills College Art Gallery, Lyonel Feininger, June - July 1936, no. 17; this exhibition later travelled to San Francisco, Museum of Art, August - September 1936, Seattle, Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington; and New York, Nierendorf Gallery.
Santa Barbara, Faulkner Memorial Art Gallery, Lyonel Feininger, 1937, no. 19.
New York, Buchholz Gallery [Curt Valentin] & Willard Gallery, Lyonel Feininger, March 1941, no. 22; this exhibition later travelled to Detroit, Institute of Arts, The Russell A. Alger House, July - August 1941.
New York, Buchholz Gallery [Curt Valentin], The Blue Four: Feininger, Jawlensky, Kandinsky, Paul Klee, October - November 1944, no. 4.
New York, Willard Gallery, Figures by Feininger, January - February 1946, no. 6.
Berlin, Amerika Haus, Lyonel Feininger, Werke aus dem Nachlass, September - October 1964, no. 14.
Dallas, Museum for Contemporary Arts, Lyonel Feininger, A Retrospective, April - May 1963, no. 31.
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Lyonel Feininger, March - May 1973, no. 138, p. 88; this exhibition later travelled to Zurich, Kunsthaus, May - July 1973.
Special notice

These lots have been imported from outside the EU or, if the UK has withdrawn from the EU without an agreed transition deal, from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Lot Essay


Achim Moeller, Managing Principal of The Lyonel Feininger Project LLC, has confirmed the authenticity of this work. The work is registered in the archives of The Lyonel Feininger Project LLC, New York - Berlin with the no. 1372-03-29-16.

Painted in 1933, Figures on the Seashore (Am Strand) was created during increasingly difficult times for Feininger. After a long period under threat, in 1932, the Bauhaus in Dessau, where Lyonel Feininger taught, was closed on the orders of the newly elected Nazi district council. The Feiningers, like so many of their friends and colleagues at the Bauhaus, were subsequently obliged to move and seek what would become an ever more difficult way of making a living elsewhere. Feininger would live with his wife, Julia, between the coastal resort of Deep, on the Baltic coast, and Berlin. He worked little during this period and felt an increasing sense of isolation and alienation as the political repression of the Nazi regime took hold throughout the country.

During this time, images of the sea populated his work. Amidst the increasing turmoil of the world around him, working by the sea provided the artist with a welcome escape: 'The most beautiful landscape cannot hold my fascinated attention as does nature by the sea, and all that is connected with the water…the moon hanging low over the horizon, shining behind a fantastically shaped cloud in the sky' (Feininger quoted in Lyonel Feininger, City and Sea, 1905-1955, exh. cat., London, 1998, p. 2).

The present work depicts a group of figures on the beach huddled together. A small ship sails among the waves to the right of the figures. The horizon line between the sea and the sky is barely distinguished, the blue of the water and sky merging into one vast expanse in front of the people. The sky is fractured and angular, with blue paint of varying richness. These observers on the shore, alone with the power and vastness of the natural world can be likened to the poignant human presence in the work of the German Romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich. However, there is an additional layer of meaning for Feininger, as a joyous, if also romanticized, image of individualist freedom and escape.

Feininger’s growing sense of isolation from the land he had adopted as his home led to him gradually abandoning the German language at this time in much of his correspondence, resorting in favor to his English mother-tongue. After he was forced by a local landlord in Deep, in the Summer of 1935, not to share accommodation with his Jewish wife Julia, the Feiningers sought to leave Germany for good. In the Spring of 1936 he returned with his family to America.

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