During his childhood in New York in the 1870s and 1880s, Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956) watched the mighty steam engines at Grand Central Station. These marvels of American ingenuity left a lasting impression on the young boy. In 1944, Feininger reminisced to Alfred H. Barr, Jr., director of The Museum of Modern Art, New York:

“The earliest impressions I have of machinery were the trains, the locomotives, half terrifying and wholly fascinating…at the age of 5 years I already drew, from memory, dozens of trains thus seen from above and in accurate perspective. Later I became more observing of details. There were the black locos of the N.Y.C., with ‘diamond’ smokestacks, and the locomotives of the N.Y.N.H. and H.R.R., with elegant straight smokestacks painted, like the driving-wheels, a bright vermillion red, and oh, the brass bands about the boiler and the ‘fancy’ steam domes of polished brass, bright cylinder-heads….”

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Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956)

(Three Locomotives, Two Tenders), 1913-14

Carved and painted wood (L x W x H)

4 1/2 x 1 1/4 x 2 5/8 in. (11.4 x 3.2 x 6.7 cm)

7 1/2 x 1 1/2 x 2 1/4 in. (19.1 x 3.8 x 5.7 cm)

7 1/2 x 1 1/2 x 1 3/4 in. (19.1 x 3.8 x 4.5 cm)

Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956)

(Three Locomotives, Two Tenders), 1913-14

Carved and painted wood (L x W x H)

4 1/2 x 1 1/4 x 2 5/8 in. (11.4 x 3.2 x 6.7 cm)

7 1/2 x 1 1/2 x 2 1/4 in. (19.1 x 3.8 x 5.7 cm)

7 1/2 x 1 1/2 x 1 3/4 in. (19.1 x 3.8 x 4.5 cm)

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After he moved to Germany in 1887, Feininger continued making etchings, watercolors, and paintings of his beloved American trains. He also began developing a series of wooden toy trains, inventing and patenting a “gliding block,” which allowed them to slide across the floor without wheels. In 1913, Munich manufacturer Otto Löwenstein agreed to produce Feininger’s toys. The artist spent months away from his home and young family in Berlin-Zehlendorf to work in the tranquility of a studio in Weimar. “I am thoroughly involved with the models,” he wrote to his wife, Julia, in 1913. “I am making the trickiest designs, carefully thought out in every detail….This work—with a practical purpose besides—has rejuvenated me into a happy boy of fifteen.” The accuracy of the technical drawings he made for the models, and his expertly formed prototypes, reflect his devotion to the project.

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Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956)

(Profile for Model Train Set, Two Engines), 1914

Watercolor and ink on paper
4 3/4 x 13 in. (12 x 33 cm)

Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956)

(Profile for Model Train Set, Two Engines), 1914

Watercolor and ink on paper
4 3/4 x 13 in. (12 x 33 cm)

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The outbreak of World War I cut the project short, and Feininger could only complete a limited number of prototypes. He gave them to his children and friends. Recognizing their artistic value, his sons T. Lux and Andreas published Lyonel Feininger: City at the Edge of the World in 1965, a book devoted to their father’s model locomotives and trains, as well as his carved wooden houses, figures, and ships. They positioned his toys as an extension of his creativity offering “insight into the formal ideas of their creator.”

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Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956)
(Steam Locomotive), c. 1928
Silver gelatin print
4 9/16 x 5 13/16 in. (11.6x 14.8 cm)

Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956)
(Steam Locomotive), c. 1928
Silver gelatin print
4 9/16 x 5 13/16 in. (11.6x 14.8 cm)

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Images

Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956)

(Profile for Model Train Set, Green Engine), 1914

Watercolor and ink on paper

3 1/4 x 13 in. (8.3 x 33 cm)

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Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956)

The Old Locomotive (Windspiel), 1906

Lithograph on paper     

Sheet: 10 7/8 x 15 1/2 in. (27.6 x 39.3 cm)

Image: 6 1/4 x 11 3/4 in. (15.9 x 29.8 cm)

Signed lower left: Lyonel Feininger

Signed and dated in stone lower left: Feininger 1906

 

Prasse L 2

 

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Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956)

(Profile for Model Train Set, Black Engine), 1914

Watercolor and ink on paper

2 1/4 x 11 1/2 in. (5.7 x 29.2 cm)

LF_00011

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Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956)
(Locomotive with Tender and Two Passenger Wagon), 1913-14
Hand-painted and carved wood
2 3/8 x 21 5/16 x 1 3/16 in. (6 x 54 x 3 cm)

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Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956)

(Profile for Model Train Set, Two Engines), 1914

Watercolor and ink on paper
4 3/4 x 13 in. (12 x 33 cm)

 

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Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956)

(Three Locomotives, Two with Tenders), 1913-14

Hand-painted and carved wood

4 1/2 x 1 1/4 x 2 5/8 in. (11.4 x 3.2 x 6.7 cm)

7 1/2 x 1 1/2 x 2 1/4 in. (19.1 x 3.8 x 5.7 cm)

7 1/2 x 1 1/2 x 1 3/4 in. (19.1 x 3.8 x 4.5 cm)

Inquire

Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956)

(Profile for Model Train Set), 1914

Watercolor and ink on paper

11 x 25 in. (27.9 x 63.5 cm)

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Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956)

(Profile for Model Train Set, Green Car), 1914

Watercolor and in kon paper

2 1/2 x 10 1/4 in. (6.4 x 16 cm)

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Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956)
Fensterplan (Window Plan, Profile for Model Train Set), 1914
Watercolor and ink on paper
9 7/8 x 14 3/8 in. (25.1 x 36.5 cm)

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Andreas Feininger (1906–1999)

(Two Locomotives and Figure), c. 1928

Silver gelatin print

6 5/8 x 9 1/4 in. (16.8 x 23.5 cm)

Signed verso: A. Feininger

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Andreas Feininger (1906–1999)

(Locomotive), 1928

Silver gelatin print, mounted on cardstock

9 3/8 x 7 in. (23.8 x 17.8 cm)

Signed and dated verso: A. Feininger 1928

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Andreas Feininger (1906–1999)

(Locomotive and Figure), c. 1928

Silver gelatin print

7 3/4 x 7 3/4 in. (19.7 x 19.7 cm)

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Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956)

(Train on a Bridge by Night), 1918

Pencil on paper

2 1/4 x 3 5/16 in. (7 x 10 cm)

Dated lower right: 24 VIII 18

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Andreas Feininger (1906–1999)

(Three Locomotives), 1928

Silver gelatin print

6 5/8 x 9 1/4 in. (16.8 x 23.5 cm)

Signed and dated verso: A. Feininger 1928

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Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956)

(Locomotive on the Bridge), 1918 

Woodcut on tissue paper

Sheet: 7 3/16 x 9 5/16 (18.4 x 25.2 cm)

Image: 3 5/8 x 4 5/8 in. (9.1 x 11.7 cm)

Signed lower left: Lyonel Feininger

Numbered lower center: 18-66

Inscribed lower right: I/II

Inscribed lower left: ♀[inverted]

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Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956)
(Steam Locomotive), c. 1928
Silver gelatin print
4 9/16 x 5 13/16 in. (11.6x 14.8 cm)

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Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956)

(Railroad Viaduct), 1919

Woodcut on yellow Kozo paper

Sheet: 15 x 19 1/2 in. (38.1 x 49.5 cm)

Image: 13 1/8 x 16 3/4 in. (33.3 x 42.5 cm)

Signed lower left: Lyonel Feininger

Inscribed lower left: ♀ [reversed] X

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Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956)
(Steam Train), c. 1928
Silver gelatin print
5 3/16 x 4 1/2 in. (14.7 x 11.5 cm)

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Lyonel Feininger next to a Locomotive, Deep, 1933

Photo: Werner Jackson

Lyonel Feininger next to a Locomotive, Deep, 1933

Photo: Werner Jackson

Chronology

1871
Lyonel Feininger is born on July 17 in New York to Karl and Elizabeth Feininger; he is the first of three children.

1887
Leaves for Germany and starts studying at the General Vocational and Crafts School in Hamburg.

1888
Moves to Berlin and begins studying at the Royal Academy of Arts.

1892
Leaves the Academy and moves to Paris.

1893
Moves back to Berlin and starts working as a freelance cartoonist and illustrator.

1901
Marries Clara Fürst, birth of daughter Eleonora. 

1902
Birth of daughter Marianne.

1905
Meets Julia Berg (née Lilienfeld) and separates from his wife.

1906
Moves with Julia to Paris and their son Andreas is born. Works on two comic strips for The Chicago Sunday Tribune.

1907
Executes his first oil painting.

1908
Marries Julia in London, returns to Berlin.

1909
Birth of son Laurence.

1910
Birth of son Theodore Lux (T. Lux).

1911
Six paintings are shown at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris.

1913
Five paintings are shown at the Erster Deutscher Herbstsalon, organized by the Galerie Der Sturm in Berlin.

1917
First solo exhibition at the Galerie Der Sturm.

1919
Is appointed the first master of the Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar.

1921
Composes his first fugue.

1926
Moves with the Bauhaus to Dessau as master without teaching duties.

1929
Works on a series of paintings for the City of Halle (Saale).

1931
Completes his Halle series. Retrospectives in Dresden, Essen, and at the Nationalgalerie in Berlin.

1934
Moves to Berlin-Siemensstadt.

1935
The National Socialists declare his art “degenerate.”

1936
Teaches a summer course at Mills College in Oakland, California.  

1937
Leaves Germany, teaches another summer course at Mills College and then settles in New York City.

1939
Works on murals for the 1939/1940 New York World’s Fair.

1942
One of his paintings is awarded a purchase prize by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

1944
Retrospective with Marsden Hartley at The Museum of Modern Art in New York.

1945
Teaches a summer course at Black Mountain College in Asheville, North Carolina.

1956
Dies on January 13 in his New York apartment.

Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings

Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings

Achim Moeller founded The Lyonel Feininger Project in 1987 to prepare the catalogues raisonné, provide certificates of authenticity as well as exhibition consultation, and to conduct and support research related to the artist. The Lyonel Feininger Project, with premises in New York and Berlin, organizes scholarly exhibitions and maintains a 20,000-volume reference library.

Lyonel Feininger: The Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings by Achim Moeller can be accessed at feiningerproject.org.

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