Lot 14
  • 14

Lyonel Feininger

Estimate
800,000 - 1,200,000 USD
Sold
1,035,000 USD
bidding is closed

Description

  • Lyonel Feininger
  • Dunes, Hazy Evening 
  • Signed Feininger (upper left); signed Lyonel Feininger, titled "DUNES, Hazy Evening." and dated 1944, (on the stretcher) 
  • Oil on canvas 

Provenance

Mary D. Herter Norton Crena de Iongh, Connecticut (sold by the Estate: William Doyle Galleries, New York, November 14, 1985, lot 98)

Acquired at the above sale

Literature

Hans Hess, Lyonel Feininger, London, 1961, no. 449, illustrated p. 291

Hans Schulz-Vanselow, Lyonel Feininger und Pommern, Kiel, 1999, mentioned p. 301

Roland März, ed., Lyonel Feininger: von Gelmeroda nach Manhattan: Retrospektive der Gemälde (exhibition catalogue), Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin & Haus der Kunst, Munich, 1998-99, mentioned in the footnote p. 306 

Catalogue Note

Portrayed in prisms of luminous, nearly-transparent colors that simultaneously achieve a mixture of delicacy and monumentality Dunes, Hazy Evening is among the finest of Feininger’s romantic, crystalline seascapes. A leading exponent of German Expressionism and a major figure of the Bauhaus, American-born Lyonel Feininger remained an expatriate living in German for almost fifty years. Having vacationed with close friends and colleagues Walter Gropius and Wassily Kandinsky along the Baltic Sea in 1922, Feininger longed to return to its windswept beaches. In 1924, the year he founded the Die Blaue Vier (The Blue Four) group with Kandinsky, Paul Klee and Alexej Jawlensky, Feininger discovered the Baltic fishing village of Deep on the Pomeranian coast. The sweeping, unpopulated vistas and silent beauty of Deep’s deserted, storm-blown dunes suited the artist’s desire for what he called “transcendental space.” Enchanted by the stormy climate which produced an ever-changing spectacle of swirling sea and sky, alongside the expansive landscape and the prevailing reflective light on the water, particularly in the evening, Feininger would return to Deep every summer through 1936. The restorative and transformative effect of the sea air and time spent sketching the many aspects of the sea each summer would provide boundless inspiration as he returned to Weimar and then Dessau. Preferring to execute his large-scale works in surroundings removed from his subject, Feininger, believing that its proximity bound him too closely to literal appearance, would often return to compositional schemes he began en plein air, completing his canvases in his studio.

Feininger, having returned to his native New York immediately prior to the outbreak of World War II impoverished, crestfallen and reeling from his abrupt transplantation took a temporary hiatus from painting. In a letter to his son Feininger explained his dismay: “What I really miss is drawing from nature and making ‘notes,’ for instance by the Baltic Sea, in Deep, or in the villages surrounding Weimar. Somehow the motifs in this place do not suffice; they contain too few of my inner wishes and lead only to naturalistic results” (quoted in B. Haskell, ed., Lyonel Feininger: At the Edge of the World (exhibition catalogue), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York & The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, 2011, p. 155). When he returned to his artistic production in 1939 Feininger immediately turned to the imagery of sailing, the sea and the sprawling dunes that harken back to his memories of life abroad, while also gleaning inspiration from the beaches along Moriches Bay and the dunes of West Hampton, New York.

The present work, painted in 1944, returns to the coast of the Baltic Sea, recasting earlier compositions and studies completed while there, in the same manner he had always done. The nostalgic nocturnal seascape of Dunes, Hazy Evening, with its fluid orchestrations of color and form, is executed in a style that is a marriage of recognizable imagery and abstraction. Feininger never sought to entirely cut ties with nature in his painting, nor did he pursue total non-objective abstraction. While Germany remained his aesthetic home through regular correspondence with his Bauhaus and Die Brucke colleagues, Feininger was embraced as an American artist in his adopted homeland. In October 1944, the same year Dunes, Hazy Evening was complete, The Museum of Modern Art held the first retrospective of the artist’s work in his native country, affirming Feininger’s status within the realm of twentieth-century modernism.

Additional information for this entry was provided by The Lyonel Feininger Project, New York–Berlin.

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