Lyonel Feininger: Photographs

Early Family Snapshots, 1905-1915

Early Family Snapshots, 1905-1915

Lyonel Feininger

Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum

Lyonel Feininger

Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum

Lyonel Feininger

Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum

Lyonel Feininger

Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum

Lyonel Feininger

Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum

Lyonel Feininger

Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum

Lyonel Feininger

Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum

About five hundred sheet-film negatives preserve Feininger’s earliest known photographs, taken during the summer of 1905 on or near the island of Rügen on Germany’s Baltic coast. Many depict Feininger’s second wife, Julia Berg (née Lilienfeld, whom he married in London in 1908), and an unidentified friend in the bucolic landscape, while a handful of images (most likely made by Julia) show Feininger with his sketchbook. Although these images are best understood as informal snapshots, Feininger’s interest in unconventional viewpoints and his unexpected use of cropping and framing suggest that the artist was already thinking of photography in a more creative way.

This group of negatives also includes photographs made between 1906 and 1908 when Lyonel and Julia Feininger were living in Paris, where he took up painting and began to distance himself from his early career as a cartoonist. The Paris photographs portray Julia in various public gardens; their apartment; Julia’s mother, Jenny Lilienfeld; and their son Andreas (b. 1906).

In 1908 the Feiningers moved to Zehlendorf, a suburb of Berlin, where they lived until 1919. During the summers of 1908 and 1909 Feininger photographed his family and friends on the beach at Heringsdorf, a popular resort town on the Baltic coast. Feininger explored photography throughout this early period, continuing to take candid photographs of his three young sons, Andreas, Laurence (b. 1909), and T. Lux (b. 1910), in rural landscapes in the vicinity of Weimar.