These ten prints feature subjects that captivated Lyonel Feininger throughout his career: ships at sea or moored in harbor, architecture, people, and ghosts, all rendered in an off-kilter style. The distorted portrayals recall his artistic beginnings as a caricaturist. They also attest to a sophisticated experimentation with form. Feininger restructured space in a Cubist manner, combining multiple perspectives in the same composition and embracing the flattening and planar tendencies of the woodcut medium.
Feininger based these woodcuts, which count among his first experiments in the medium, on quick sketches he termed “nature notes.” He made many of these sketches in summer 1918 while vacationing in the Harz Mountains, far away from wartime Berlin.
In 1937, American-born Feininger left Germany, where he had lived for fifty years, in the face of growing persecution by the Nazis. The Buchholz Gallery in New York, run by Curt Valentin, was instrumental in helping him reestablish himself stateside. In 1941, the gallery published this portfolio of selected early woodcuts, all printed from the original woodblocks, which Feininger had saved. The prints still resonated deeply with the artist, who only rarely made new woodcuts after returning to America.
Publication excerpt from Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.