Drawing was fundamental for the American-born Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956), one of the most versatile talents of the modern art movement in Germany. From his beginnings as a caricaturist to his ﬁnal years, when his paintings reached for a transcendental dissolution of subject matter, Feininger devoted enormous energy to the exploration of his themes and the development of his style through drawings. Alongside the many thousands of “nature notes” (quick, small sketches from life) are more elaborate, larger-scale drawings and watercolors that convey the richness of the artist’s development.
The Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum is the principal repository of the nature notes. It is also the recent recipient of over 400 ﬁnished drawings and watercolors from the estate of the legendary curator William S. Lieberman. Many of these works have never been studied or exhibited before.
This catalogue, which accompanies an exhibition in Berlin and Munich organized by Peter Nisbet, documents nearly 80 of these drawings, with interpretive entries and comparative illustrations. The catalogue considers Feininger’s various techniques and traces the wide range of emotional content these works embody, from whimsical humor, through nostalgia for land- and seascapes, to darker moods. With an introductory essay placing these works in relationship to the collector and the museum, the book reveals Feininger’s drawings and watercolors to be far more complex—aesthetically, technically, and psychologically—than has been acknowledged.
Peter Nisbet, former Daimler-Benz Curator of the Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, is now Chief Curator at the Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.