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From the collection: Lyonel Feininger's Drobsdorf I

This regular series offers a glimpse into the Weisman's permanent collection. Each post features an object currently on view in the galleries.


Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956) is known for paintings of landscape and architectural scenes that depict the environment through layered, structured planes of space. Feininger, an American expatriate who resided in Germany until World War II, originally trained as a musician, but developed into a cartoonist in the early 1900's. It was after his encounter with the French cubists in 1911 that he realized his unique painting style.

Feininger insisted that unlike cubism, a movement in which planes of space were also fractured to present the viewer with an alternate way of viewing the world, his technique created depth instead of drawing attention to the surface. The artist's fascination with landscape and architectural scenes allowed him to explore themes of light versus shadow, and material versus immaterial. In his paintings, each of these qualities embodies the same weight and presence as the other, effectively merging the tangible and intangible.

Drobsdorf I was painted along the shore of a coastal European town. It depicts a white church whose tall spire creates a sense of ascending motion. This is further augmented by the planes of atmosphere that press into and against the building. Color is the only factor that indicates different representational forms: the white of the church stands in stark contrast to the more muted colors of the sky and earth.

The Weisman purchased Drobsdorf I from the artist in 1939. Upon his return to the United States in 1936, Feininger faced criticism from American compatriots who thought of him solely as a German artist. It was only after his work began to be exhibited by major American galleries and museums in the late 1930's that it became recognized and appreciated as that of an American artist.


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