The gift from the Andreas Feininger Estate represents a range of subjects from Feininger’s long photographic career, which spanned seven decades, and includes work made in Germany and Stockholm in the late 1920s and early 1930s, most notably several nude studies and experiments with printing techniques. The donation also includes examples from Feininger’s 1942 documentation of weapons factories for the U.S. Office of War Information, his views of New York in the 1940s and 1950s, and his nature photographs, including studies of shells and trees from the 1960s and 1970s. Prior to this acquisition, the Getty held thirteen photographs by Andreas Feininger, as well as 56 photographs by his younger brother Theodore, nicknamed T. Lux (American, born Germany, 1910–2011).
“We are very pleased to accept this gift from the Andreas Feininger Estate,” said Judith Keller, senior curator in the Getty Museum’s Department of Photographs. “His contributions to the art of photography are significant, and this gift enhances our collection of photographs from the Bauhaus, in particular those by his brother T. Lux, as well as our strong holdings of depictions of New York.”
Born in Paris in 1906 and raised in Berlin, Feininger did not live in the United States until the age of 33. He studied architecture in Weimar, where his family moved when his father was appointed to teach at the Bauhaus, Germany’s innovative school for design, art, and architecture. Feininger took up photography at this time, setting up a darkroom with T. Lux in the family residence when the Bauhaus moved from Weimar to Dessau in 1926. After a brief career in architecture, Feininger turned increasingly to photography, setting up a studio for architectural photography in Stockholm in 1934. He moved to New York City in 1939, and took at position with LIFE magazine, where he completed 430 assignments over the span of 20 years. After leaving LIFE in 1962, he dedicated himself to the documentation of nature, focusing on the interrelatedness of natural forms as well as the potential for photographs of nature to inspire environmental action. Throughout his career, Feininger also wrote numerous technical manuals and essays about photography
In 1966, the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) awarded Feininger its highest distinction, the Robert Leavitt Award, and in 1991 the International Center of Photography awarded Feininger the Infinity Lifetime Achievement Award.
Feininger’s photographs reside in several museum collections, including those of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Photographs by Lyonel and T. Lux Feininger, as well as those by other masters and students at the Bauhaus are included in the exhibition Lyonel Feininger: Photographs, 1928–1939, on view through March 11, 2012 at the Getty Center.