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Live-in studio of Lyonel Feininger (1908–1919)

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“I think so much […] of our first meetings in 1912 and of the Brücke, which opened up for me then like a new world.”

Lyonel Feininger to Erich Heckel, 27 December 1953

Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, o.T. (Silbenrätsel), 1914, Brücke-Museum, Karl und Emy Schmidt-Rottluff Stiftung, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2023

From their first meeting in 1912, Erich Heckel and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff tried in vain to convince the painter and future Bauhaus professor Lyonel Feininger to join the Brücke. Although he never actually became a member of the artist’ group, he and the Brücke artists developed a close friendship. Not only did the men discuss art, but they also went on excursions together into the Berlin countryside. A close bond grew between Schmidt-Rottluff and Feininger in particular. “Leinöl” and “Titan”, as they called each other, soon got chummy. They often gifted artworks to each other and continued their personal contact through letters.

“When I look back on the years we shared together, I find an endless wealth of inspirations and joys that are still alive today and act as a form of encouragement.”

Lyonel Feininger to Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, 28 August 1923

The US-born Feininger had been living primarily in Berlin since 1888. In 1908, he moved to Königstraße 32 in rural Zehlendorf. In a self-made postcard from 1914, Schmidt-Rottluff depicted this address in the form of a word puzzle between prismatic shapes. After Feininger was increasingly targeted by the National Socialists in 1937 and his works were confiscated from public collections as part of the politically driven propaganda campaign “Degenerate Art”, he left Germany and moved to New York. Nonetheless, the connection with his friends Schmidt-Rottluff and Heckel did not break off. Their personal and artistic dialogue continued across the Atlantic until Feininger’s death in 1956.

Valentina Bay

Explore Berlin through the Eyes of the Brücke Artists
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