Hans Hess wrote in his biography of Lyonel Feininger, published in 1959, that of the 21 paintings completed in 1913, only two solely depict the human figure, both being portraits of his wife Julia (see fig. 1). Die Schläferin = Julia is possibly Feininger's most intimate study of Julia, portraying her in a reclining position along the plane's diagonal. The artist achieves a remarkable likeness of Julia, as seen when compared to photographs or drawings of that period.
1913 saw the maturing of Feininger's artistic style, deeply influenced by a short trip to Paris two years previously. In a letter written in 1913 to his life-long friend Alfred Vance Churchill, Feininger remembers his progress: "1911 my studies had brought me to the critical state where imitation of nature was iminent, but in that Spring I had gone to Paris for 2 weeks and found the art world agog with Cubism - a thing I had never heard even mentioned before, but which I had already, entirely intuitively, striven after for years" (H. Hess, op. cit., p. 52)
The break-up of form, of light and the possibilities such freedom offered the artist, were to preoccupy Feininger from that time onwards. He wrote in a letter from Paris to Julia: "Recently I dreamed I was a 'Cubist' and had to shade nothing but squares diagonally from top to bottom." (op. cit., p. 53)
However, Feininger never understood his work as being 'Cubist' in the french tradition of Braque or Picasso, rather, the penetration of the solid object through varying perspectives, and the simplification of forms into geometric planes, shaped by light, were his main concern. In the letter to Churchill quoted above, Feininger continues: "1912 I worked entirely independently, striving to wrest the secrets of atmospheric perspective & light & shade gradation, likewise rhythm & balance between various objects, from Nature. My 'cubism', to so miscall it, for it is the reverse of the french cubist's aims, is based upon the principle of monumentality, concentration to the absolutest extreme possible, of my visions....My pictures are ever nearing closer the Synthesis of the fugue....My 'cubism' (again, falsely so-called); call it rather, if it must have a name 'prism-ism'". (op. cit., p. 56)
To be included in the forthcoming Lyonel Feininger catalogue raisonné currently being prepared by Achim Moeller, New York.
We are extremely grateful to Achim Moeller for his assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.
Die Schläferin - Julia
Oil on canvas
Signed 'Feininger' (lower left); signed, titled and dated 'Lyonel Feininger 1913 Die Schläferin "Sleeping Woman - Julia" (on the stretcher)
Munich, Neue Kunst Hans GLotz, 48. Ausstellung: Lyonel Feininger, October 1913, cat. no. 2
Dresden, Galerie Emil Richter, Lyonel Feininger. Sonderausstellung seiner Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen und Holzschnitte, September 1919, cat. no. 16
Hanover, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Paul Klee Lyonel Feininger, 29. Sonder-Ausstellung, 30 November 1919-1 January 1920, cat. no. 138
Erfurt, Kunstvereinsheim, Verein fr Kunst und Kunstgewerbe, November 1921
Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Art Gallery, Feininger. A Retrospective Exhibition, April 1938, cat. no. 29
Rome, Marlborough Galleria d'Arte, Lyonel Feininger, November-December 1971, cat. no. 1 (illustrated in colour)
31½ x 39½in. (80 x 100.3cm.)
H. Hess, Lyonel Feininger, London 1961, no. 112, p. 258 (illustrated)
J.L. Ness (ed.), Lyonel Feininger, New York 1974, no. 23 (illustrated)
Schlossmuseum Weimar (on extended loan, 1923, errouneously entitled Die Schlummernde)
Estate of the Artist
Julia Feininger, New York
Estate of Julia Feininger
Marlborough Gallery, New York
Museum of Modern Art, New York (on loan, 52.654)