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The Tug, 1934-1937

Lyonel Feininger

American, 1871-1956
Oil and pencil on canvas
16 x 19 in. (40.6 x 48.3 cm)
Norton Simon Museum, Gift of Mrs. Matilda H. Rummage
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn Reproduction, including downloading of ARS works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

On view

Like Paul Klee, Lyonel Feininger longed to be a musician, and he moved from New York City to Germany in 1887 to study music. There he made a living as a satirical caricaturist until he began painting seriously at the age of 36. By then, deeply under the influence of European modernism, Feininger tended toward the more sensitive, expressive experiments with the cubist grid employed by his friend Franz Marc. Whereas Marc painted animals, Feininger remained interested in the architecture, boats and sea of his youth in New York. The Tug is an exceptional example of how his romanticism toward these subjects could be conveyed through the faceted planes of Cubism. The sunny yellows and vibrant greens, along with the playfulness of the subject, affirm that the work was made under what the artist considered “very happy conditions”—summering with his wife and his three sons on the Baltic Sea. His wife later explained that “it was for the last time that we could enjoy that lovely place in a comparatively peaceful way, for the destruction of Nazidom was already foreshadowed and carried out in 1935 in a devastating way.”

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