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Lyonel Feininger "Bathers on the Beach"
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Lyonel Feininger "Hulks"
A pair of modern paintings by the renowned German-American artist Lyonel Feininger are currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. These works of art, painted in the early twentieth century, are on long-term loan from a private collector, and will remain at the WAG for at least five years. They join a larger selection of modern paintings and sculptures drawn from the Gallery’s own holdings, as part of the permanent Collection on View exhibition.
Although modest in size, both works have immense historical significance. The earliest of the two oil paintings, Bathers on the Beach, dates from exactly one hundred years ago. Verging on complete abstraction, it shows the profound influence of Cubism, Futurism, and German Expressionism. The second is very different. Titled simply Hulks, this precisely rendered but whimsical 1923 painting represents several ships anchored in harbor. Stylistically, Hulks reflects Feininger’s association with the famous Bauhaus art and design school, where he befriended and taught alongside other significant modern artists as Klee, Kandinsky, and Moholy-Nagy.
“The Winnipeg Art Gallery is very fortunate to receive these works on long-term loan,” states WAG Director & CEO Dr. Stephen Borys. “Although audiences have been able to see fabulous examples of European modernism by artists like Henry Moore, Jean Arp, and Marc Chagall, they have not had extended access to canvases by Feininger before now. These long-term loans significantly enrich the WAG’s display of modern European art, and we are incredibly grateful to the lender.”
Born in New York City in 1871, Feininger went on to study music in Germany, where he developed a parallel interest and talent for visual art. He worked as an illustrator and produced memorably satirical and unconventional cartoons, before trying his hand at easel painting. Feininger’s impact as a modern artist was first made as a proponent of German Expressionism, an important avant-garde movement chronicled in last year’s exhibition Storm and Spirit at the WAG. After the First World War Feininger’s art increasingly reflected the more streamlined aesthetic of the Bauhaus school in Weimar, Germany. When the Nazi’s came to power in the 1930s, Feininger returned to the United States, where he continued to make art, teach, and died in 1956. This modern Master’s work has been exhibited extensively internationally, and is held by many major art institutions, from the Museum of Modern Art in New York to Berlin’s National Gallery.
“Visitors will find the Feininger paintings refreshing because I think there is generally a renewed appetite for modern art, architecture, fashion, and design in this city,” comments Andrew Kear, the WAG’s Curator of Historical Canadian Art. “The positive reception the WAG’s recent German Expressionist exhibition Storm and Spirit received, along with Sensing the Future at Plug-In ICA, suggests that Modernism is becoming relevant again for a lot of people.”
Visitors can see the two Feininger paintings on permanent display as part of the exhibition Collection on View: Modernist Traditions, 1870-1950 at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
Report courtesy of Winnipeg Art Gallery.