Lot 46
  • 46

Lyonel Feininger

Estimate
12,500,000 - 15,000,000 USD
Sold
10,121,000 USD
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Description

  • Lyonel Feininger
  • Die grüne Brücke (The Green Bridge)
  • Signed Feininger (lower left) 
  • Oil on canvas

Provenance

Dr. Laurence Feininger, Trento (by descent from the artist)

Roman Norbert Ketterer, Campione d'Italia

F. L. Schwarz, New York (acquired from the above in July 1965 and sold: Christie's, New York, October 18, 1977, lot 35)

Private Collection (acquired at the above sale)

Sale:  Christie's, London, June 25, 2001, lot 19

Acquired at the above sale

Exhibited

Paris, Quai d'Orsay, Salon de Indépendants, la 27ème Exposition, April-June 1911, no. 2179

Dresden, Dresden Sezession 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 Restrospective, 1938, (possibly) no. 27

New York, Museum of Modern Art, Feininger-Hartley, 1944-45, no. 4

Cleveland, The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Work of Lyonel Feininger, 1951, no. 1

San Francisco, Museum of Art; Minneapolis, Institute of Arts; Cleveland. Museum of Art; Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery; Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, L. Feininger Memorial Exhibition, 1959-60, no. 2

New York, Willard Gallery, Lyonel Feininger: Architecture Paris-New York, (possibly) 1959

Dortmund, Museum am Ostwall, Lyonel Feininger-Kleine Blätter, aus der Sammlung Dr. Laurence Feininger- Trient, (possibly) early 1960s

Florence, Palazzo Strozzi, XXVI Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Mostra dell'Espressionismo, 1964, no. 84

Campione d'Italia, R. N. Ketterer, Moderne Kunst, 1965, no. 30

Campione d'Italia, R. N. Ketterer, L.Feininger, 1965, no. 1

Pasadena, The Pasadena Art Museum, Lyonel Feininger Memorial Restropective, 1966, no. 4

Munich, Haus der Kunst; Zürich, Kunsthaus, Lyonel Feininger 1871-1956, 1973, no. 71

Hamburg, Kunsthalle, Lyonel Feininger Menschenbilder, Eine unbekannte Welt, 2003-04, no. 61

Wuppertal, Von der Heydt-Museum, Lyonel Feininger - Frühe Werke und Freunde, 2006, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Literature

Hans Hess, Lyonel Feininger, London, 1961, no. 44, illustrated p. 252

Douglas Gordon, Modern Art Exhibtions 1900-1916, vol. II, Munich, 1974, p. 479

Catalogue Note

Feininger made his debut into the world of avant-garde painting in Paris with the spectacular Der Grüne Brucke (The Green Bridge).  The artist chose to include this impressive canvas at the annual Salon des Indépendants in the spring of 1911, where it would be hung alongside works by Matisse, Delaunay and Kandinsky.  The occasion was also the premiere of the revolutionary Cubist compositions of Picasso and Braque, and their work would have a profound impact on Feininger's later pictures.   The present work, which was a clear indicator of the direction that Feininger's painting would take over the next decade, already reflects many of Cubism's aesthetic principles, including the concept of 'constructing' a composition piece by piece.   At the exhibition, this picture received significant attention from several critics and artists, including Henri Matisse.  According to one account, Matisse came in "to hang a picture of his own in the space alongside. For a long time he stood staring at Feininger's canvas. Then he turned around and took his picture out with him. Haled by his astonished coterie, he explained that he would have to work over his painting before he would let it stand comparison with Feininger's. And he did" (Charlotte Teller, as quoted in Ulrich Luckhardt, Lyonel Feininger, Munich, 1989, p. 29).

Der Grüne Brucke proved to be so important in the development of Feininger's oeuvre that the artist returned to this subject in 1916 with a reprisal picture of the same title (see fig. 2).  In this later picture, the architecture is more detailed and the street scene more populated.  But the present work provides us with a more geometricized, structured and aesthetically provocative depiction of the 'modern city' during the first decade of the new century.  In the present composition, Feininger introduces the viewer to the scenery and street life of the "city at the end of the world".  He would often work out the composition of a painting beforehand in a pen and ink drawing (see fig. 1), and his achievements as a draftsman in these first studies would carry over to his paintings.  

 

In the present composition, there is a distinct relationship between the figures and the architecture.  The distorted and elongated characters walking down the street echo the structure of the crooked houses along the side of the road.  The imposing green bridge separates the spectators from the city dwellers, who appear to be oblivious that they are being watched from above.   There was a strong socio-political subtext to many of his pictures, and the present work is an example of the artist's concerns in the years preceding World War I.   "The city at the end of the world, in which all this is played out, is the synonym for the deceptive security of a world shutting its eyes to the realities of pre-revolutionary society in Germany: a fairytale scene, taken from the nineteenth century, the structure of which, as Feininger sees it, cannot survive. For him the figures in this seemingly whole and sane world are only performing a charade" (Ulrich Luckhardt, op. cit., p. 25).

Because Feininger began his career as a draftsman, there is a distinct influence of caricature in many of his early paintings, including the present work (see fig. 3).  His paintings are populated by many of the same characters that featured in his published drawings, including Jesuits, city workers, lonely children and prostitutes.  But in these grander oil compositions, Feininger groups all of these characters together, creating a dynamic ensemble for the sake of the pictorial narrative.   As Luckhardt notes, "Many of the depictions show only men. (...) If women are present, they usually play a subordinate role, bound to the men in bourgeois life. In many of the compositions, the women are shown as mothers or prostitutes. In both roles they remain aloof, without connection to their children or their potential customers. The prostitutes seem to long for contact with the person looking at the picture; their large, prominent eyes are almost always staring out at us" (Ulrich Luckhardt, op. cit., p. 26).

 

In his monograph about the artist, Hans Hess further explores Feininger's artistic process, "Feininger's use of color is as direct as that of the Fauve painters, but his choice of colors is subtle and strange. The color disharmonies are softer and the mood created more dreamlike. A mauvish pink predominates, countered by strong blues and greens. The colors live by the subtle violence of their disharmonies. In his pictures of this period the human figure plays a dominant part, but neither the figures nor the settings in which they move pretend to be real. (...)  The figures in silhouette reveal Feininger's preoccupation with the outline as the sum of all possible views of an object. The silhouette contains the body in all its movements. (...) The picture excludes emotional participation; it is a painting of movement and place. It is a comic scene, but essentially a study in space and speed. The same holds true for the Green Bridge, where, however, a mysterious relationship is created by the spectators on the bridge watching the same spectacle from another viewpoint. The viaduct, the high bridge, echoing experiences from the artist's childhood in New York and from his visits to Arcueil, assumes in Feininger almost symbolic importance. It is as if his own feelings for height, the projection of his own slim angular figure, 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 the buildings" (Hans Hess, op. cit., pp. 47-48).

This work has been requested for the Lyonel Feininger Retrospective in Japan to be held at the Yokosuka Museum of Art, the Aichi Prefectural Museum in Nagoya, the Miyagi Museum of Art in Sendai  to be held from August 2, 2008 until March 1, 2009.

We are grateful to Achim Moeller for his assistance in the preparation of this catalogue entry.

 

Fig. 1, Lyonel Feininger, Die Grüne Brücke, 1910-11, Private Collection

Fig. 2, Lyonel Feininger, Grüne Brücke II, 1916, oil on canvas, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh

Fig. 3, Lyonel Feininger, Exactitude, Le Témoin, no. 43, 1907

Fig. 4, Lyonel Feininger, Street in Dusk, 1910, oil on canvas, Sprengel Museum, Hanover

Fig. 5, Lyonel Feininger, circa 1907

Fig. 6, Pablo Picasso, The Factory, 1909, oil on canvas, The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

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