By the early 1930s, Dessau had become increasingly inhospitable to the Bauhaus and those connected with it. Finally, in September 1932, the National Socialist majority of the city council voted to close it. In the period leading up to this decision, and until his family’s departure from Dessau in March 1933, Feininger spent time wandering the streets and making an intriguing and unsettling series of photographs featuring mannequins in shop windows.
During Germany’s Weimar period, commodity display had become an art form in its own right, and shop windows were a rich source of inspiration for painters, writers, ﬁlmmakers, and photographers. Feininger’s 35mm negatives record not only the eerily lifelike mannequins, but also the strange play of reﬂections on the window surfaces, which infuse these images with a surreal, dreamlike quality. This series also provided an opportunity for the artist to re-engage with the ﬁgurative imagery that dominated his early work as a caricaturist and cartoonist. The enigmatic ﬁgures that Feininger discovered in various shop windows are close cousins to the eccentric characters that populate his ﬁgurative drawings and paintings, with their distorted bodies and exaggerated attitudes and expressions.
After leaving Germany and moving to New York in 1937, Feininger continued to photograph shop windows and mannequins. This interest in photographing storefronts would remain a preoccupation for the artist throughout his lifetime.