Color in Cubes

Lyonel Feininger, Gaberndorf II, 1924, oil on canvas mounted on board, 39 7/16 x 30 ¾ in.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Lyonel Feininger had an extensive and varied career as an artist, active not only as a painter and printmaker, but also as an illustrator, cartoonist, miniature figure maker and photographer. Born in America to German and German-American parents, Feininger spent the majority of his life in Germany, and at at various points in his career was associated with both German Expressionist groups Die Brücke and Der Blaue Reiter as well as with the Bauhaus as a painting and graphic arts instructor. Shortly after departing Germany for the United States, Feininger’s work was included in the infamous Nazi “Degenerate Art” exhibition of 1937.

Having being exposed to Cubism at the Paris Salon des Indépendants in 1911, Feininger incorporated the style into his work, though he maintained a distinctive aesthetic. At contrast with Picasso and Braque’s form of Cubism which made use of muted grey and ochre hues, Feininger utilized more expressive, bold color tones. Landscapes comprised much of Feininger’s subject matter, though he eventually incorporated architectural forms, as we see here in Gaberndorf II. The central form of a small house stands out against the more ambiguous surrounding landscape comprised of intersecting geometric planes. Here the color scheme is fairly representational - the sky is formed of various shades of blue while the house and ground areas are comprised of brown and rust tones. The ambiguous landscape is heightened by the luminosity present within the prismatic planes. Though for the most part the light source is uncertain and fractured,  the plane of light appearing to emanate from within the house gives a hint of familiarity within this mysterious terrain.


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