Lyonel Feininger: Photographs

New York, 1937-1955

New York, 1937-1955

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

On June 11, 1937, Lyonel and Julia Feininger left Germany permanently, just weeks before the opening of the Nazis’ infamous Munich exhibition Degenerate Art, which included a number of Feininger’s confiscated paintings. The Feiningers’ initial return to New York had been the previous summer, when they were en route to California. After spending a second summer at Mills College in Oakland, they went back to New York to settle, arriving by train at the beginning of September. They spent their first few months at the Hotel Earle on Washington Square and later moved into an apartment at 235 East 22nd Street in 1938.

Feininger had not lived in New York since 1887, and, although famous in Germany, he was not well established in America. It would be two years before he produced a painting, but he immediately began to make photographs, recording details of city life observed both on the street and from the window of his apartment, just as he had in Siemensstadt. Photography provided a means of reacquainting himself with the city and engaging with his present surroundings, but also paved the way for his first paintings of New York subjects in 1940.

Feininger continued to photograph New York throughout the 1940s and ’50s, capturing life from his eleventh-floor apartment window and going out into the streets to photograph the city’s architecture.