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


Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956)
signed and dated 'Feininger 32' (lower right)
oil on canvas
17¼ x 27 3/8 in. (43.4 x 72 cm.)
Painted in 1932
Galerie Alex Vömel, Dusseldorf.
Dr Adalbert Colsman, Langenberg, by whom acquired from the above in October 1936, and thence by descent to the present owner.
H. Hess, Lyonel Feininger, London, 1961, no. 344, p. 281 (illustrated).
Munich, Bayerische Akademie der Schönen Künste, Lyonel Feininger, September - October 1954, no. 16; this exhibition later travelled to Hanover, Kestner- Gesellschaft, October - November 1954.
Hamburg, Kunstverein, Lyonel Feininger, 1871-1956: Gedächtnisausstellung, January - March 1961, no. 47; this exhibition later travelled to Essen, Museum Folkwang, March - May 1961; and Baden-Baden, Staatliche Kunsthalle, May - June 1961.

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Lot Essay

Achim Moeller, Managing Principal of The Lyonel Feininger Project LLC, New York - Berlin, has confirmed the authenticity of this work, which is registered under no. 1362-12-22-15.

Marine is one of an extended series of paintings of ships and the sea that Feininger made regularly throughout his life and most frequently following his summers spent in the village of Deep on the Baltic coast. Both Feininger himself and his two sons Andreas and Lux had a life-long passion for sailing ships, always watching for them keenly on their summer holidays to Deep and regularly building, refining and sailing their own hand-made model versions throughout their life. 

In a letter that Feininger wrote to his wife Julia in January 1932 mentioning a new painting that he refers to as ‘Blue Marine’, the artist also records his interest in the progress of his son Lux’s new model sailboat, writing, ‘I am giving the finishing touches to two paintings, the new Blue Marine – so pretty! Now I shall take up the Lighted Window II - of this painting I am sure and two will then be finished in 1932…Lux is working at his brig. The masts are up. He is almost through with the rigging and the stays. The long bowsprit gives it a very conscious physiognomy. It will look handsome in the water’ (L. Feininger, ‘Letter to Julia’, 19 January 1932, in J.L. Ness, ed., Lyonel Feininger, New York, 1974, p. 210). The painting that Feininger calls ‘Blue Marine’ may well be the present work as there is no other recorded painting with the title ‘Blue Marine’ in the catalogue raisonné of his works for 1932. 

Depicting two sailing ships that appear to be engaged in a race with one another, Marine is a wonderfully elegant articulation of the simple aesthetics and beauty of sailing. Using a series of sharp, angular strips of rich, alternating colour to delineate, in solely two dimensions, the sky, sails, waves, space and motion of the sea, Feininger has managed to spectacularly capture a profound sense of the grace, sensation and romance involved in the art of sailing on the open sea. In its use of predominantly solid form and colour, the painting marks a significant development from the often shimmering, and layered, prismatic Cubism that distinguished Feininger’s oils of the mid-1920s, where the artist had endowed his seascapes with the same architectural appreciation of space and structure that informed his paintings of cathedrals. Here, in Marine, the same rhythm, form and energy that infuses the demonstrably open space of the sky and sea appears also to have become crystallised in the sharp, angular structure of the two sail boats and to have done so in a way that visually conveys a poetic understanding of the innate relationship between the boats and the natural elements that they harness into motion. 

Painted in 1932, Marine was made at the beginning of what were increasingly difficult times for Feininger and, in this respect, may well represent a joyous painterly escape from the worries of the day. After a long period under threat, in 1932, the Bauhaus in Dessau, where 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. In 1936, after several difficult years of struggle and increasing personal abuse, the Feiningers left Germany for good, sailing to America, the land of Feininger’s birth. Throughout this period, images of ships and sailing boats, always a constant in Feininger’s oeuvre, took on an increased resonance as joyous, if also romanticised images of individualist freedom and escape. 

Marine was formerly in the historic collection of the prominent industrialist and patron Adalbert Colsman (1886-1978). Colsman and his wife Thilda were friends with Emil and Ada Nolde, and owned several of the artist’s works. The Colsmans also befriended many other artists, including Otto Dix, who painted both their portraits after the Second World War. Colsman’s brother-in-law, Karl Ernst Osthaus, founded the Museum Folkwang in Hagen in 1902, the collection of which was transferred to the city of Essen after Osthaus’ death in 1921. Colsman was later Chairman of the Museum Folkwang in Essen, to which he bequeathed his correspondence, including letters from a number of prominent artists and architects of the time.

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