"T. Lux Feininger, Photographer and Painter, Dies at 101"
July 13th, 2011
The New York Times
July 13th, 2011
The New York Times
T. Lux Feininger, a painter and photographer who, as a young student at the Bauhaus, used his camera to compile an invaluable and visually distinctive record of the artistic avant-garde in Germany between the wars, died last Thursday at his home in Cambridge, Mass. He was 101.
The death was confirmed by his daughter-in-law Kate Feininger.
Mr. Feininger was the younger brother of the photographer Andreas Feininger. His father was the painter Lyonel Feininger, one of the first artists appointed by Walter Gropius to teach at the Bauhaus in Weimar.
At 16 he became a student at the Bauhaus, which had moved to Dessau. There he collaborated in Oskar Schlemmer’s experimental theater, played in the Bauhaus jazz band, and studied painting with Josef Albers, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky.
Above all, he took photographs. The Bauhaus did not have a photographic studio until 1929, but Mr. Feininger, who had begun taking photographs several years earlier with his grandmother’s box camera before graduating to his own 9-by-12-centimeter plate camera, played the role of artistic photojournalist.
Influenced by the New Vision principles articulated by the Bauhaus teacher Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Mr. Feininger chronicled daily life at the Bauhaus in images that showed a playful, spontaneous spirit and a keen sense of new formal developments in photography.
“He captured what the student life was like there in a sophisticated, innovative way, even though he was totally untrained,” said Laura Muir, assistant curator of the Busch-Reisinger Museum at Harvard. “He merged photojournalism with the New Vision aesthetic of exaggerated angles, extreme close-ups and cropping.”
Theodore Lux Feininger was born on June 11, 1910, in Berlin. While at the Bauhaus, he sold his photographs to picture newspapers and periodicals through the Berlin photo agency Dephot. In 1929 his work was included in Film und Foto, a groundbreaking survey of modern photography in Stuttgart.
After he turned to painting that same year, he exhibited widely in Germany under the name Theodore Lux before emigrating to the United States in 1936. He left most of his photographic negatives in Germany, where they disappeared.
His maritime paintings, often of old-fashioned sailing ships, had flat, simplified forms and uninterrupted blocks of color that seemed to put him in the camp of the magic realists but also had the flavor of children’s book illustration. A critic for The New York Times, reviewing Mr. Feininger’s first one-man show in Manhattan in 1937, noted “a queer affinity in spirit to Currier & Ives prints or the Rousseau vein.”
After leaving Germany Mr. Feininger painted some striking self-portraits reminiscent of Otto Dix and began adding locomotives to his repertory of images. In the early 1960s he began painting in a semi-abstract prismatic style influenced by his father and Kandinsky.
He taught at Sarah Lawrence College, the Fogg Museum at Harvard and, beginning in 1962, the school of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, from which he retired in 1975.
Mr. Feininger, who served with Army intelligence during World War II, took up photography again in the 1940s, producing images of mass transportation — ships, ferries, trains and trucks — and New York street scenes, often placing a pair of opera glasses in front of the camera lens to create a telephoto effect. He did not intend the photographs for exhibition, and he abandoned photography entirely in the early 1950s.
The Busch-Reisinger Museum organized a retrospective of his work in 1962. His Bauhaus photographs were shown in the exhibition “Dancing on the Roof: Photography and the Bauhaus (1923-1929)” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2001.
He wrote the text for “Lyonel Feininger: City at the Edge of the World” (1965), a book devoted to his father’s wooden toy sculptures of trains, ships and a fantasy city. His brother Andreas contributed the photographs.
He is survived by three sons: Lucas, of West Roxbury, Mass.; Conrad, of Silver Spring, Md.; and Charles, of Acton, Mass.; and four grandchildren.
In 2010 Moeller Fine Art mounted a show of his paintings in its Manhattan and Berlin galleries, and the Kunsthalle in Kiel, Germany, organized a traveling exhibition of paintings and works on paper, “World Sailor: T. Lux Feininger on His 100th Birthday,” now on view at the Lyonel Feininger Gallery in Quedlinburg, Germany.