Cut to the Quick: What Feininger Learned from Woodcut

Book Review

  • Lyonel Feininger: Woodcuts: Becoming a Bauhaus Artist

  • By Björn Egging, translated by Steven Lindberg
  • 272 pages, 233 color and 19 black-and-white illustrations
  • Published by Kerber Verlag, Bielefeld, Germany, 2014
  • $70

Painters attracted by printmaking often find that the medium offers them new opportunities for artistic expression, even when they use it to address existing themes in their work. For Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956), however, his work in woodcut not only developed alongside his painting but also allowed a radical re-envisioning of his visual syntax after a fallow period during World War I. He clearly found woodcut to be a powerfully compelling medium; indeed, he created most of the 320 woodcuts in his oeuvre within a three-year period between the spring of 1918, when he was living in Paris, and the winter of 1920, when he was teaching at the Bauhaus in Weimar (where he had been appointed first Master of Form by Walter Gropius in 1919). During this period of frenzied work, Feininger completed some 237 woodcuts in which he reduced form to an idiom of shifting planes and abrupt reversals, intermingling figure and ground as he began to explore avant-garde forms, if not themes. [On Feininger, see also Art in Print Sep-Oct 2014].

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