switch views:
  • view lightbox
  • view single item
  • view list

Lyonel Feininger

Born: 1871, New York, New York, United States of America
Died: 1956, New York, New York, United States of America

Denstedt
1917

Oil on canvas
Image: 34 3/8 x 46 5/8 in. (87.3 x 118.4 cm)
Frame: 44 7/8 x 57 1/4 in. (114.0 x 145.4 cm)
Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1988.27
Signed: Upper left: Feininger 17
Artist Name: []

Interpretation

Painted in 1917, Lyonel Feininger’s Denstedt is a dream-like rendering of the streets and buildings of a German village as a metaphor for the hardships of life on the German home front during World War I. Denstedt is a suburb of Weimar, the small, central German city long known as one of Europe’s cultural capitals. In 1913, when the artist began visiting Weimar, he explored on foot or bicycle the old villages of the surrounding region of Thuringia. Feininger was fascinated by the architecture of such historic places, for they corresponded with his romantic childhood vision of his ancestral homeland as a premodern place of quaint historic villages. In works painted throughout the war, Feininger depicted the villages with an expressive intensity that interweaves nostalgia and quiet menace.

Denstedt evokes the artist’s physical experience of the angular medieval buildings, with their pointed Gothic towers, heavy walls irregular with age, and steeply pitched staircases and roofs. Feininger drew on analytical cubism, which renders objects as series of component two-dimensional forms, to flatten, fragment, and abstract these architectural elements. Envisioned as if through a child’s imagining, the buildings assume a brooding presence more tangible than that of the lone man striding into the otherwise deserted scene near the bottom edge of the canvas, a shimmering figure of exaggerated angles that recalls the caricatured people of Feininger’s early satirical cartoons. The nervous, jagged edges of fragmented forms and the unsettling intensity of the acidic colors evoke the specter of the ongoing war and the difficult conditions it imposed on civilians, including the artist and his family. The year 1917 witnessed the added tragedy of outright conflict between Germany and the United States, two nations with which the artist identified equally. Feininger might well have been writing of Denstedt when, in March of that year, he wrote to a friend that “the terrible events in the world weigh on us and leave dark traces in my work.”

Return to top

Provenance

The artist
Estate of the artist
Marlborough Gallery, London, England, Rome, Italy, and Zurich, Switzerland
Private collection, Japan
Mr. Leonard Lauder, New York
Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc., New York, New York, November 1986
Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1986

Return to top

Exhibition History

Lyonel Feininger, Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, Inc., New York, New York (organizer). Venue: Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, Inc., New York, New York, April–May 1969. [exh. cat.]

German Art in the 20th Century, Painting and Sculpture: 1905–1985, Royal Academy of Arts, London, England, October 11–December 22, 1985; Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Germany, February 8–April 27, 1986. [exh. cat.]

A Proud Heritage: Two Centuries of American Art, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, April 21–June 21, 1987. [exh. cat.]

Collection Cameo, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, lllinois, July 1990.

Lyonel Feininger: von Gelmeroda nach Manhattan, Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany (organizer). Venues: Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany, July 3–October 11, 1998; Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany, November 1, 1988–January 24, 1999. [exh. cat.]

L'Amérique et les modernes, 1900–1950 (American Moderns, 1900–1950), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, July 25–October 31, 2000. [exh. cat.]

Selections from the Permanent Collection: Two Centuries of American Art, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, March 10–July 1, 2001.

Selections from the Permanent Collection: American Moderns, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, July 14–October 7, 2001.

American Classics: Selections from the Terra Foundation for the Arts, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, January 26–September 1, 2002.

A Place on the Avenue: Terra Museum of American Art Celebrates 15 Years in Chicago, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, November 16, 2002–February 16, 2003 (on exhibit extended run: November 2, 2002–March 2, 2003).

Copley to Cassatt: Masterworks from the Terra Collection, New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, Connecticut, and Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, Connecticut, September 5–December 7, 2003.

A Narrative of American Art, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, February 13–October 31, 2004 (on exhibit partial run: February 13–April 15, 2004).

"Futurismo 100: Illuminazioni. Avanguardie a confronto. Italia – Germania - Russia" ("Futurismo 100: Illuminations. Avant-gardes compared. Italy, Germany, Russia") MART (Museo di arte moderna e contemporanea di Trento e Roverto), Trento, Italy, January 17–June 7, 2009. [exh. cat]

Da Hopper a Warhol: Pittura Americana del XX secolo a San Marino (From Hopper to Warhol: American Painting of the Twentieth Century in San Marino), Linea d'ombra (organizer). Venue: Repubblica di San Marino, Palazzo Sums, January 21-June 3 2012. [exh. cat.]

Return to top

Published References

Hess, Hans. Lyonel Feininger. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1961. Text p. 264, no. 173 (checklist); ill. p. 264 (black & white).

Lyonel Feininger. (exh. cat., Marlborough-Gerson Gallery Inc.). New York: Marlborough-Gerson Gallery Inc., 1969. Text p. 11, no. 19 (checklist); ill. p. 37 (color).

"Gallery Reviews." Art International 13:6 (Summer 1969): 65–66. Text p. 66.

Joachimides, Christos M., Norman Rosenthal and Wieland Schmied, eds. et al. German Art in the 20th Century. (exh. cat., Staatsgalerie Stuttgart). Munich, Germany: Prestel-Verlag, 1985. Cat. 180.

Atkinson, D. Scott et al. A Proud Heritage: Two Centuries of American Art. Edited by Terry A. Neff. (exh. cat., Terra Museum of American Art). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1987. Pl. T-150, p. 259 (color).

Denstedt, Lyonel Feininger. Collection Cameo sheet, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, July 1990. Ill. (black & white). Southgate, M. Therese. "The Cover." The Journal of the American Medical Association 267:6 (February 12, 1992): 770. Text p. 770; ill. cover (color).

März, Roland et al. Lyonel Feininger: Von Gelmeroda Nach Manhattan. (exh. cat., Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin). Berlin, Germany: G + H Verlag Berlin, 1998. Text p. 363 (checklist); pl. 40, p. 98 (color).

Cartwright, Derrick R. and Paul J. Karlstrom. American Moderns, 1900–1950. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2000. Pl. 12, p. 39 (color).

Cartwright, Derrick R. and Paul J. Karlstrom. L'Amérique et les modernes, 1900–1950. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2000. Pl. 12, p. 39 (color).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. and Elizabeth Kennedy. An American Point of View: The Daniel J. Terra Collection. Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2002. Text pp. 166, 195–96; ill. pp. 167 (color), 195 (black & white).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. and Elizabeth Kennedy. Un regard transatlantique. La collection d'art américain de Daniel J. Terra. Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2002. Text pp. 166, 195–96; ill. pp. 167 (color), 195 (black & white).

Coen, Ester, ed. Illuminazioni. Avanguardie a confronto: Italia | Germania | Russia (ex. Cat. Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto, Trento, Italy) Florence, Italy: Electa, 2009. Text p. 423 (checklist); ill. p. 187 (color).

Southgate, M. Therese. The Art of JAMA III: Covers and Essays from the Journal of the American Medical Association. Chicago, Illinois: American Medical Association, 2011. Text pp. 80, 205; ill. opposite p. 80 (color).

Da Hopper a Warhol: Pittura Americana del XX secolo a San Marino. (exh. cat., Linea d'ombra). Treviso, Italy: Linea d'ombra, 2012. Text p. 46; ill. p. 47 (color).

Cozzolino, Robert, Anne Classen Knutson, and David M. Lubin. World War I and American Art. (exh. cat., Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts). Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in association with Princeton University Press, 2016. Text p. 300 (checklist); ill. p. 188 (color, detail); p. 196, pl. 60 (color).

Return to top

Sign on