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Feininger, Lyonel, 1871-1956. Papers of Lyonel Feininger, 1905-1998: A Guide

Harvard Art Museum Archives, Harvard Art Museums, Harvard University
The President and Fellows of Harvard College

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: BRM 2
Repository: Harvard Art Museum Archives, Harvard Art Museums, Harvard University
Title: Papers of Lyonel Feininger, 1905-1998: A Guide
Date(s): 1905-1998
Date(s): 1905-1955
Quantity: 16 linear feet (27 file boxes, 2 13x18 folio boxes, 3 5.5x8.5 card boxes, 1 record carton)
Abstract: Biographical and family materials, personal correspondence, research materials, work images, exhibition catalogues and promotional materials, paperwork and documentation related to Feininger's work, published materials on Feininger and his work, and images and materials from Hans Hess's catalogue raisonné of Feininger paintings.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

The bulk of this collection was donated to the Busch-Reisinger Museum by Feininger's widow, Julia Feininger, in 1963, with later additions from the Feininger family.

Processing Information:

The collection was processed from September 2013 to October 2013 by Olivia Mandica-Hart with assistance from Laura Muir and Megan Schwenke. Joanna Wendel performed initial processing work on the exhibition catalogue and periodical lists in 2010. Diane Radycki did initial cataloguing work on the contact sheet series. Additional materials were processed by Brooke McManus in April 2014.

Conditions on Access:

Access: Unrestricted

Conditions on Use:

Copyright: Copyright in materials by Lyonel Feininger is held by his heirs or assigns. Copyright in some papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the Harvard Art Museums Archives before publishing from any material in the collection.
Copying: Papers may be copied in accordance with the Harvard Art Museums Archives' usual procedures.

Related Materials

Additional Feininger materials are in the collection of the Busch-Reisinger Museum.
Feininger papers are also available at the Houghton Library as MS Ger 146-146.3, MS Ger 146.4, and MS Typ 765.
Feininger family papers, belonging to the Busch-Reisinger Museum, are on deposit at the Houghton Library, *94M-92.


Lyonel Charles Feininger was born in New York on July 17, 1871. He was a painter, printmaker, photographer, and caricaturist. He is noted for his figurative painting and distinctive brand of cubism, and is considered a leading exponent of Expressionism.
In his youth, Feininger traveled to Europe to study violin in 1887, and attended the Kunstgewerbeschule in Hamburg, Germany, in 1887, the Berlin Academy in 1888, the Collège St.-Servais in Liège, Belgium, from 1890 to 1891, and Studio Schlabitz in Berlin from 1891 to 1892. In 1890, he began publishing caricatures and drawings in Humoristische Blätter.
In 1901, he married Clara Fürst, and the couple had two daughters, Lore and Marianne. Feininger separated from Clara in 1905, and married Julia Berg in 1908; the couple had three sons, Andreas, Laurence, and Theodore (T. Lux or Lux).
Feininger began drawing comic strips for the Chicago Tribune in 1906, and in 1907, he completed his first painting. When Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany, in 1919, Feininger was his first faculty appointment, and directed the printmaking workshop. He was also a member of the exhibition group Blaue Vier. When the Nazi Party came to power in the 1930s, they deemed Feininger's art "degenerate," and removed more than four hundred of his works from German museums in 1937. In 1936, Feininger taught a summer course at Mills College in Oakland, California, at the invitation of the German art historian Alfred Neumeyer. In 1937, he left Germany permanently, teaching a summer course at Mills again before settling in New York City. He was elected president of the Federation of American Painters and Sculptors in 1947 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1955.
Feininger produced many photographic works between 1928 and his death in 1956. These photographs were not published or shared with the public during his lifetime. Feininger also composed music for the piano and organ throughout his life.
Lyonel Feininger died in New York on January 13, 1956.

Series and Subseries in the Collection

The papers are arranged in three series:

Scope and Content:

This collection is comprised of materials collected by Feininger and his wife, Julia Feininger. The "Personal" series contains published articles about Feininger's life and work, and correspondence, including typed transcripts of letters between Feininger and his wife, as well as between Feininger and art dealer Galka Scheyer. Also included are materials from other members of the Feininger family, such as a photo album, possibly created and captioned by T. Lux Feininger, containing images of family and friends, original frame drawings by Feininger, and photographs from various exhibitions of his work. This series additionally incorporates materials that Feininger used for inspiration and research.
The "Work" series includes documentary photographs of Feininger's watercolors and oil paintings, published reproductions of his various works, exhibition catalogues, paperwork and documentation related to the gifts, sales, and loans of Feininger's works, and contact sheets. The contact sheets were made in 1992 by the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) from Feininger's original photographic negatives in the Busch-Reisinger Museum's collection, using duplicate negatives made from interpositives.
The collection contains periodicals, pamphlets, essays, and other published works that discuss Feininger. The third series includes photographs for Hans Hess's catalogue raisonné of Feininger paintings from 1959. The oeuvre catalogue and manuscript include 550 photographs of Feininger's works.
The documents have been re-housed into archival folders and boxes. Most of the collection has been kept in its original order. Following processing in 2013, additional materials were located and subsequently filed with like materials or filed separately as indicated in the finding aid. Such materials are identified with an asterisk and the corresponding folder number in brackets. Oversized items have been separated and housed in appropriately sized containers. The location of these items is also indicated in the finding aid. There are notes on index cards from Harvard's original processing work (probably circa 1963) scattered throughout the collection.

Box and Folder Locations






Form/Genre Terms

Container List