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Blaue Marine (Blue Marine)

On view

Blaue Marine (Blue Marine)

Artist: Lyonel C.A. Feininger (American (active in Europe), 1871 - 1956)

Date: 1924
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
Overall: 18 15/16 x 33 3/16in. (48.1 x 84.3cm)
Signed: Lower right: 'Feininger 24' Verso, top stretcher, center-right (black ink): '1924 (“Blaue MARINE”) / Lyonel Feininger'
Credit Line: Museum Purchase
Object number: 52.35
Label Text
While at the avant-garde art school, the Bauhaus, in Weimar, Germany, Lyonel
Feininger spent summer months sketching on the Baltic Sea. He completed numerous works on paper that served as the basis of the compositions he painted once he was reestablished in his daily routine in Weimar. In 1924, when he painted Blue Marine, he vacationed for the first time in Deep, a small seaside village that was to become his holiday destination for the next eleven years.

In Blue Marine, Feininger continued the compositional explorations he had begun in earlier pictures of the sea, subjecting nature to a new, linear order. The painting is organized by severe horizontal lines that separate the shore from the sea and the sea from the sky. The horizontal movement is interrupted by the verticality of the figures, the two boats, and the indistinct clouds, that, as part of the architectural structure of the painting, take on the appearance of floating cubes.

Achim Moeller
2005

Text Entries

While at the Bauhaus in Weimar, Lyonel Feininger was in the habit during the summer months of spending as much time as possible on the Baltic Sea. Alone at first and then in the company of his family, he used these days to rest and to sketch.  He completed numerous works on paper, but he never painted any full-scale pictures.  Nevertheless, Feininger’s paintings are inconceivable without these nature studies, which served as visual sources and as the basis of the compositions he painted once he was reestablished in his daily routine in Weimar.  In 1924, when he painted Blue Marine, he vacationed for the first time in Deep, a small seaside village that was to become his holiday destination for the next eleven years.

In Blue Marine, Feininger continued the compositional explorations he had begun in earlier pictures of the sea, subjecting nature to a new order, a linear construct.  The painting is organized by severe horizontal lines that separate the shore from the sea and the sea from the sky.  The horizontal movement is interrupted by the verticality of the figures, the two boats, and the indistinct clouds, that, as part of the architectural structure of the painting, take on the appearance of floating cubes.

Contemplating this seascape, one is inevitably reminded of Caspar David Friedrich, though Feininger himself would have rejected any such comparison with the German Romantic painter.  Although their paintings speak a similar language in their formal structure, the emotional and intellectual content underlying them are quite different.  Whereas the work of Friedrich is romantic and allegorical, that of Feininger is rational, a state of mind.

The colors Feininger experienced during his holidays by the sea and which he reproduced in his paintings reflect the influence of the nineteenth-century English landscape painter J.M.W. Turner.  We know from Feininger himself that even as a child he was drawn to Turner’s work,[1] although it was not until the spring of 1908 that he saw the original paintings in London, which he visited with his future wife, Julia Berg (née Lilienfeld).[2]

The color blue, which not only appears in the title but also dominates the picture itself, had a particular significance among Feininger’s circle the year it was painted.  In 1924, Emmy “Galka” Scheyer, a passionate young collector of modern art, established a new artists’ group.  It was named The Blue Four, a reference to the four founding members: Feininger, Alexej von Jawlensky, Wassily Kandinsky, and Paul Klee. Scheyer, an ardent admirer of the painters, wanted to promote their work in America and already that same year she organized an exhibition in New York, at the Daniel Gallery, at 600 Madison Avenue on 57th Street.  The name of the new group, The Blue Four, recalls The Blue Rider, the association of artists that had been established in Munich in 1911.  Among others, its members had included Jawlensky, Kandinsky, and Klee.

Feininger’s Blue Marine was probably painted in the fall of 1924.  A few months earlier, the artist wrote to his wife: “How often it happens that what I paint is confirmed by nature.  The expression of the experience is made possible through the graphic, meaningful forming of space in the picture.  I am not painting very much at the moment.  I am living in a state of receptivity and have no inclination for anything else.  Later, when I am in other places and environments, I can re-live it all and re-create it in pictures.”[3]



[1] Hans Hess, Lyonel Feininger (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1961), 7: “I knew [of] Turner from a big book of steel engravings – a classic work – when I was a mere boy not yet in my teens” (letter from Feininger to his son, T. Lux, Stockbridge, Mass., July 2, 1946).

[2] Ibid, p. 43.

[3] July 7, 1924, unpublished manuscript, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Cambridge, Mass.

Copyright
Presumed copyright: the artist or the artist's representative/heir(s) / Licensed by ARS, New York, NY.