Sale: 545 / Evening Sale, Dec. 08. 2023 in Munich Lot 51


Lyonel Feininger
Karavellen, 1933.
Oil on canvas
€ 300,000 / $ 324,000
€ 381,000 / $ 411,480

(incl. surcharge)
Karavellen. 1933.
Oil on canvas.
Signed in upper left. Once again signed on the reverse, as well as dated and titled "Lyonel Feininger 1933 »Caravels«. 36.4 x 44.5 cm (14.3 x 17.5 in).
• Feininger staged the departure into the unknown in a spherical sunlight.
• Fateful year 1933: Nazis seized power and the Bauhaus was closed.
• Columbus once set out on a caravel - did Feininger see motif and colors in context of his own pending departure to America?
• Impressive exhibition history, shown in the USA as early as in 1936.
• A similar painting, which Feininger gave to his friend Wassily Kandinsky, is part of the collection of the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Achim Moeller, director of the Lyonel Feininger Project LLC, New York – Berlin, has kindly confirmed this work's authenticity. It is documented in the archive of the Lyonel Feininger Project under the number 1874-09-15-23. The work is accompanied by a certificate.
The work is mentioned in Lyonel Feininger: The Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings by Achim Moeller as number 373.
Achim Moeller, The Lyonel Feininger Project LLC, New York – ­Berlin, has provided further information.

PROVENANCE: Artist's estate.
Julia Feininger, New York.
Laurence Feininger, Trento.
(Roman Norbert Ketterer, Campione d'Italia)
Private collection North Rhine-Westphalia.
Ever since family-owned.

EXHIBITION: Lyonel Feininger, The Oakland Art Gallery, Oakland, June 1 - August 22, 1936, no. 42 (Caravels), San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, August 23 - September 15, 1936, Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, from October 5, 1936.
Lyonel Feininger: Exhibition of Oil Water Color Paintings and Prints in the Faulkner Memorial Art Gallery, Faulkner Memorial Art Gallery, Santa Barbara, January 5 - January 17, 1937, no. 20 (Caravels).
Lyonel Feininger: A Retrospective Exhibition at the University of Minnesota, University Gallery, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, April 1 - 30, 1938, no. 18 (Caravels).
Lyonel Feininger, Willard Gallery, New York, March 11 - 29, 1941, no. 5 (Caravels), The Russell A. Alger House, Detroit Institute of Arts, Grosse Pointe, Michigan, July - August 1941 (with the label on the reverse).
Sixth Annual Exhibition, Museum of Art of Ogunquit, Ogunquit, Maine, June 28 - September 8, 1958, no. 2 (Caravels, loan from Mrs. Lyonel Feininger).
Lyonel Feininger: Paintings of Harbors, Ships, and the Sea, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, October 6 - November 8, 1958 (Caravels, loan from Mrs. Lyonel Feininger, with the label on the reverse).
Lyonel Feininger, Willard Gallery, New York, November 4 - December 6, 1958, no. 5 (Caravels).
Lyonel Feininger – Kleine Blätter: The Intimate World of Lyonel Feininger, Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund, May 23 - June 18, 1962, no. 5 (addenda with notes by Dr. Laurence Feininger, Karavellen (Caravels)).
L. Feininger. Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, Graphik, R. N. Ketterer, Campione d'Italia, 1965, cat. no. 6 (with color fig.).
Lyonel Feininger 1871-1956: A Memorial Exhibition, Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, April 26 - May 29, 1966, Milwaukee Art Center, Milwaukee, July 10 - August 11, 1966, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, September 7 - October 23, 1966, cat. no. 41 (with the label on the reverse).

LITERATURE: Hans Hess, Lyonel Feininger. With an oeuvre catalog by Julia Feininger, Stuttgart 1959, cat. no. 356 (with black-and-white fig.).

Bodo Cichy, Great Modern Paintings, New York, 1971, p. 92 (with fig., Caravels).
Danilo Curti-Feininger, Lyonel e Laurence Feininger. musica e pittura in armonia, in: Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto (ed.), Lyonel Feininger: Opere dalle collezioni private italiane, ex. cat., Geneva-Milan 2007, pp. 23–32, here p. 23 (Caravels).
Roman Norbert Ketterer, L. Feininger. Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, Graphik, Campione d'Italia, 1965, cat. no. 6, pp. 14f. (with color fig.).
Roman Norbert Ketterer, Moderne Kunst II. Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, inventory catalog. Stuttgart, 1965, no. 45 (Karavellen), pp. 64f. (with color fig.).
Roman Norbert Ketterer, Moderne Kunst IV, inventory catalog, Stuttgart, 1967, no. 26 (Karavellen), p. 45 (with color fig.).
Achim Moeller, “Caravels/(Karavellen), 1917 (Moeller 191).” Lyonel Feininger:
The Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings.
Laura Muir, Lyonel Feininger: Fotografien 1928-1939, ex. cat., Ostfildern, 2011, p. 49 (Karavellen).
Hans Schulz- Vanselow, Lyonel Feininger und Pommern. Kiel, 1999, p. 234 (Karavellen [Caravels]).

The Last Bauhaus Years
In the year it was founded, Walter Gropius appointed Lyonel Feininger as master at the State Bauhaus in Weimar, where he took over the management of the graphic workshops until 1925 and, among other things, designed the title woodcut of the Bauhaus Manifesto. When the masters decided to leave Thuringia due to a lack of funding and politically motivated harassment, a large number of students and teachers moved to the new location in Dessau, including Lyonel Feininger. In Dessau, he and his wife Julia moved into one of the "master houses" that Walter Gropius had designed, but he was released from his teaching obligations. A large commission from the city of Halle an der Saale ensured his livelihood for many years, and he found more time to concentrate on his own painting. Architectural views and landscapes were created, among them major works such as "Vogelwolke" from 1926 and "Gelmeroda XII" from 1929. His small-format work "Karavellen" from 1933, however, is completely different than the famous transcendent, crystalline fragmented surfaces of the 1920s. It can be compared to a small group of notable works based on the artist's woodcuts. The sailing ship with its sails down and the small dinghy lie almost statically in the center of the picture, framed by hard, block-like color areas in magenta and dark blue. Hans Hess attributed this style of painting at the beginning of the 1930s, among other things, to the oppressive political and social circumstances at the time it was created. Nevertheless, some important works were created during this time, continues Hess, which, in terms of motif and execution, were known from earlier creative phases and drew their strength from the artist's visual memory: "They owe their spirit and perfection to the forms that Feininger had already found ." (Hans Hess, Stuttgart 1959, p. 130).

In Dessau, the situation for the Bauhaus members became more difficult from year to year. In 1932, the National Socialists forced the closure of the state-run Bauhaus and Lyonel and Julia Feininger left the city of Dessau for Berlin March 1933. It cannot be said with certainty whether the present painting was created in Berlin or in Dessau. In Berlin, however, the Bauhaus era finally came to an end under increasing repression by the National Socialists. Like so many other artists of his generation, the political circumstances made it almost impossible for Lyonel Feininger to work, which is why the American-born artist returned to the USA a few years later.
Visual Memories and Painted Woodcuts
Even before Lyonel Feininger took over the management of the graphic workshops in Weimar, he became intensively involved with graphic art after the end of the First World War. In particular, he devoted much of his attention to the woodcut, which was so important for the development of modern art in Germany. Between 1918 and 1920, he produced a comprehensive graphic oeuvre that would earn him the reputation of one of the most important printmakers of the 20th century. In a letter to his friend Alfred Kubin in 1919, Feininger wrote: "The only thing has been my starting with woodcuts, and in about six months I managed to produce more than 150 plates. The technique gives me the greatest delight and I've simply dropped everything else to concentrate on that." (quoted from Ulrich Luckhardt, Lyonel Feininger, Munich 1989, p. 114) It would not take long before Feininger attempted to transfer the characteristic lines and the flatness of the woodcut to painting. Prime examples of this endeavor are "The Privateers" from 1920 or "Marine" from 1924, which is part of the collection of the Centre Pompidou in Paris today. Feininger had once gifted the painting to his friend Wassily Kandinksy, with whom he had founded the exhibition association "The Blue Four", along with Paul Klee and Alexej von Jawlensky in 1924, opening up new exhibition opportunities in America through the support of Galka Scheyer. In 1933, he created two more works, "Karavellen" and "Marine nach Holzschnitt (Navy after Woodcut), which can also be assigned to this remarkable group of works. He modeled "Karavellen" on a woodcut from 1919, which was published together with other early woodcuts by Curt Valentin in New York in 1941. His so-called painted woodcuts not only testify to Feininger's great talent in woodcut art, but also to his fascination with maritime themes, one of his central motifs, which he also took up here, transferring it into a painting with strong colors. Although we already know motif and style from his woodcuts, Feininger succeeds in giving the paintings a new expressiveness so that they become works in their own right. It almost seems as if the woodcuts, printed only in black and white, were brought to life by the painting and transferred into a new world. Hans Hess describes the two works from 1933 with the beautiful words: " them the thing, a toy boat on a fairy tale sea, is regarded as an unknown object. The reality of the object in its solitude is at the same time denied, the ship was only a toy, the whole a dream, full of childlike magic." (Hans Hess, 1959, p. 130).
Return to America and First Exhibition Success
In June 1937, Lyonel Feininger left Germany with his wife and returned to America. Although born in America, Feininger had to build a new life in his old homeland after the long time he had spent in Germany. Between 1937 and 1938, no new works were created, and the painter only gradually found new inspiration. Owing to the close contact with Galka Scheyer, who had already organized a exhibition of the "The Blue Four" in the States in 1925, Lyonel Feininger had ever more opportunities to show his art in public. The artist was able to take some of his works with him on the crossing, while others were left behind in various places in Germany.

The painting "Karavellen", however, had already been exhibited in the U.S. in 1936 and early in 1937, and was probably already in the States when the artist returned. Feininger had taught at Mills College in Oakland during the summer months of 1936 and had also selected the small "Karavellen" for an exhibition there. In the following years, too, the painting was repeatedly selected for large exhibitions in the USA. In 1933, Feininger had staged the departure into the unknown in spherical sunlight which was to become reality in his own life in 1937 when he returned to the USA. Columbus once set out for America in a caravel - did Feininger associate this motif and the red-blue color scheme with his own imminent departure ? Even without an answer to this question, the small "Karavellen" as painted woodcuts thus stand not only for the connection of different techniques, but ultimately also act as bridge between worlds, between the difficult time of creation in Germany under the repressions of the National Socialists and the new life in America. [AR]

Lyonel Feininger
Karavellen, 1933.
Oil on canvas
€ 300,000 / $ 324,000
€ 381,000 / $ 411,480

(incl. surcharge)