Art: The Velocipede of Modernism

Lyonel Feininger's early work finally reaches the U.S.

Lyonel Feininger is one of those artists whose names evoke one kind of painting, and one only. Translucent planes carving up space like glass knives, suggesting churches, ice caves or winter seas--in Feininger, the symbolism of the German romantics, especially of Caspar David Friedrich, is passed through an illustrative language based on cubism. It is legible cubism, shorn of its ambiguities. Under the modern surface, there is always a hint of the sublime, the transcendental, perilously near to kitsch--Crystal Cathedral uplift, the fount of much hotel-lobby art and many a "serious" get-well card.

In the last years of his life, Feininger...

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