Lyonel Feininger: Dröbsdorf I, 1928
a geometrical depiction of a lighthouse
Lyonel Feininger
Dröbsdorf I, 1928
Oil on canvas, 32 ¼ x 40 1/8 inches


From 1924 to 1935, Lyonel Feininger spent his summers in a Baltic Sea village, and the setting of seaside towns, crowned with medieval churches and soaring steeples, provided inspiring subjects for his art. He worked within an artistic style called Cubism, which breaks images into geometric planes and reassembles them in an abstraction, allowing the audience to see an object or subject from every viewpoint. We see that attempt in Dröbsdorf I, from 1928, a cubist rendering of the architectural forms of a church, including its spire, as it blends into its setting in nature. The flatness and evenness of the painting give the same weight to the sky as to the church, thus bestowing on church and sky the same spiritual importance.


Lyonel Feininger, born in 1871 in New York City, began his artistic training in Germany in 1887. As a young cartoonist and illustrator for European newspapers he experimented with bizarre manipulation of spatial relations. Turning to painting in 1907, Feininger began to evolve his unique style influenced by Post-Impressionism, Cubism, and German Expressionism. His landscapes, often marine or urban in subject, bear a relationship to Cubism, although his use of faceted, overlapping planes and radiating lines construct form rather than dissolve it. They possess a futuristic quality while simultaneously evoking a drama and spirit reminiscent of late nineteenth-century German Romanticism. Feininger taught at the Weimar Bauhaus until 1925. Aware of the increasingly unfavorable artistic climate and mounting tension in prewar Nazi Germany, he returned to the United States in 1937 and lived there until his death in 1956.