“[…] to Feininger the world dissolves into transparency. Not the romantic boundless universe, without end or beginning, but the classical universe of bounds and order. The poetry of the world is the content of Feininger’s pictures. Silence is the precondition of harmony, stillness the void in which events find their resonance; and out of nothing appears the iridescence of the invisible made actual.”
In the summer of 1936, an invitation from Mills College in Oakland provided Lyonel Feininger with the welcome opportunity to escape the National Socialist regime in Germany and move to the United States. His work was declared ‘degenerate’ and subsequently exhibited in the seminal 1937 exhibition at the Haus der Deutschen Kunst in Munich. About his impending move to first Oakland and then New York City, Feininger mentioned: "I feel twenty-five years younger knowing that I am going to a country where imagination in art and abstraction are not an utter crime, as they are here..." (quoted in Ulrich Luckhardt, Lyonel Feininger, Munich, 1989, p. 44).
Following the artist’s arrival in New York City, Feininger was particularly inspired by the city’s architecture and by the 1940s the towering buildings, fragmented and interpenetrated, had found their way into his art. Already in his early works, Feininger depicted architectural subjects and street scenes, especially after encountering Cubism and the works of the Orphist painter Robert Delaunay in Paris in the 1910s. Influenced by their novel implementation of colour and form, Feininger’s works create a prismatic effect by layering semi-transparent shapes and planes.
By the 1950s Feininger almost exclusively dedicated himself and his art to the interaction of line, form and colour, and his work is as much about rendering a vision of the geometry inherent in nature as any one subject, though distinctive images of architecture figure prominently in his work from this period. As Feininger wrote to his son Lux in September 1955: "I incline ever more to reduce my language in painting to the merest essences of line and colour; as a painter I am hopelessly bound even though I have an appreciation for the properties of pigments in using them in my own sparse way. I am nearing a stage where I am even commencing to annihilate precise form, in the interest—as it seems to me—of unity" (ibid., p. 168). This exploration and expression of the purity of painting is intensely felt in the execution of the present work.