Lyonel Feininger’s painting presents insurrectionaries pouring onto the streets of a small French village. The motley band of characters includes a clown, a portly bohemian, elegant ladies, and historically clad characters trailing a cabaret singer, who appears in the lower right corner. A dandy jauntily sidesteps his way into the picture, elbowing a brilliantly colored and grotesquely elongated man who bears a pitchfork topped with a red flag. Faceless men in top hats march along a blank gray wall, which further constricts the narrow space and creates a diagonal that serves to focus the direction of the procession. Feininger emphasizes the movement of the crowd, giving no hint of their goal.
The incongruous juxtapositions, including startling differences in scale and clashes of garish colors, recall Feininger’s earlier work as a caricaturist and comic-strip illustrator. He based this painting on sketches he made while living in Paris from 1906 to 1908 and on a drawing from 1909 now in the Museum’s collection.
Publication excerpt from Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.