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Lyonel Feininger. Cathedral (Kathedrale) for Program of the State Bauhaus in Weimar (Programm des Staatlichen Bauhauses in Weimar). 1919

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Lyonel Feininger (American, 1871–1956)

Cathedral (Kathedrale) for Program of the State Bauhaus in Weimar (Programm des Staatlichen Bauhauses in Weimar)

composition: 12 x 7 1/2" (30.5 x 19 cm); sheet (irreg.): 16 1/8 x 12 3/16" (41 x 31 cm)
Staatliches Bauhaus, Weimar
The artist
state I: approx. 6-15 proofs [this ex.] before the edition of an unknown number for the "Program of the State Bauhaus in Weimar"*; state II: approx. 6-15; plus posthumous edition of 100 (plus 2 printer's proofs) published by Associated American Artists, New York, 1964 (*Note: The large edition for the Program was not actually printed from the original woodblock, but from a line block facsimile)
Credit Line:
Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller
MoMA Number:
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 67

A major figure in German avant-garde art of the early twentieth century, expatriate American painter Lyonel Feininger began his career in Berlin in the 1890s as an illustrator of satirical subjects. He later served as the first artistic director of the printing shop of the Bauhaus, a progressive arts-and-crafts school founded at Weimar in 1919. Of the more than three hundred woodcuts Feininger produced, the one initially titled The Cathedral of Socialism is the most historically significant and widely admired. It served as a cover design for the Bauhaus manifesto by architect Walter Gropius and was meant to symbolize both the unity and the spiritual basis of the various arts under the primacy of architecture.

The fragmented and intersecting planes that convey dynamism in Cathedral first appeared in Feininger's work about 1911, under the influence of Cubism. His drypoint The Gate, depicting tiny figures in a medieval setting animated by exaggerated proportions, includes stark contrasts of light and dark and skewed forms. Feininger's love of Gothic architecture is evident in this town gate, which he depicted in woodcuts and paintings. This print, a high point in Feininger's oeuvre of some sixty-five intaglios from 1906 to 1924, was published after the war in an important series of German print portfolios entitled Die Schaffenden. After Feininger returned to the United States in 1937 to avoid Nazi accusations of being a "degenerate" artist, his printmaking was confined to a small group of lithographs made with noted printer George C. Miller in New York in the 1950s.

Jennifer Roberts

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