Schiff im Golf von Siam (Ship in the Gulf of Siam)
, 1931, is one of the earliest paintings by Theodore Lux (T. Lux) Feininger (1910-2011), the youngest son of Bauhaus Master Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956). T. Lux began painting in 1929 at the age of nineteen, after studying at the Bauhaus in Dessau from 1926 to 1929 under Josef Albers, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and Oskar Schlemmer. From the beginning, T. Lux was drawn to ships and seascapes – a passion instilled in him by his father. Father and son spent many long summers together in Deep, on the Baltic Sea (present-day Mrzeżyno, Poland), swimming, sailing, and racing homemade model ships. T. Lux would frequently watch as his father sketched countless drawings and watercolors of seascapes, and at nineteen he himself took up pencil and crayons to make drawings of ‘contemporary yachts and sailing boats, [and] historical ship types (Wolfgang Büche, ‚T. Lux Feininger Weg zum Maler‘, in Weltensegler: T. Lux Feininger zum 100. Geburtstag. Werke 1929-
1942, ed. by Ulrich Luckhardt and Peter Thurmann, exhibit. cat. Cologne: Hermann Krause Kunsthandel GmbH, 2010, pp. 8-15, p. 8).’ These first artistic ventures did not go unnoticed by his parents, and in July 1930 his proud father wrote of his son’s promise to his friend, the art historian Alois J. Schardt: ‘Lux is very hard-working and made beautiful Marine-sheets with ink and colored pencil, which will lead to sounding and luminous paintings. The boy is divine. In his promise lies my joy […]’ (Letter from Lyonel Feininger to Alois J. Schardt, Deep, July 24, 1930, Moeller Fine Art Projects | The Lyonel Feininger Project, New York). Later that same year his mother, Julia, commented in a letter to Alfred H. Barr, the founding director of The Museum of Modern Art, that ‘Lux is developing into a ‘new hope for American art,’ as a painter, principally in marine subjects but of course not exclusively. His work is attracting attention among people interested in painting’ (Letter from Julia Feininger to Alfred H. Barr, Dessau, October 10, 1930, copy at Moeller Fine Art Projects | The Lyonel Feininger Project, New York). Indeed, in 1930 the young artist had two of his paintings included in the exhibition ‘Kunstblatt Ausstellung Junger Künstler’ in Berlin.
Though Schiff im Golf von Siam is one of T. Lux’s early paintings, it demonstrates a certain artistic maturity and a skilled attention to detail. The three-masted ship, with the checkered flag that signals the end of a race hoisted aloft, sails on a deep blue sea, silhouetted against the billowing black smoke of a yellow-striped tugboat that leads it in to port. The ship’s sharp prow and masts contrast with the rounded forms of the smoke and white clouds, giving the work a dynamic tension.