When Andreas Feininger began to love his exile

The early “New York” series by the Bauhaus-trained architect and photographer can currently be seen in Berlin’s Bröhan Museum.

Andreas Feininger:

Andreas Feininger: “Downtown Manhattan in the evening”, New York, 1940Andreas Feininger Archive c/o Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen

Escape from Nazi Germany to America was the last resort for the entire Feininger (Bauhaus) family. They were all deeply rooted in Dessau: the Bauhaus master Lyonel Feininger, who was born in the USA and socialized in Germany despite his US citizenship, painters of prismatic, crystalline forms, his Jewish wife Julia and the equally artistic sons Andreas and Lux.

But under the Nazis they were no longer allowed to work in Germany. The middle one, Laurence, musicologist and Roman Catholic priest, lived in Italy, mostly in South Tyrol.

Andreas Feininger:

Andreas Feininger: “Statue of Liberty at night”, New York, 1940Andreas Feininger Archive c/o Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen

Lux, the youngest, a painter like his father, fled to New York in 1936, his parents followed in 1937 and Andreas, who had gone to Paris and then to Stockholm with his Swedish wife in 1933, packed his cameras in 1939 and took the steamer after them Overseas. The couple landed in New York eight days before Christmas. In Europe, the Wehrmacht tanks rolled. World War II turned the continent into hell.

The Bröhan Museum is now showing Andreas Feininger’s series “New York in the Forties”, his first photographs from the city of exile, where he worked as a highly respected photojournalist for Life magazine and died in 1999 at the blessed age of 93. Fabian Reifferscheidt curated the gripping exhibition, all with items on loan from the Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen: three rooms, three focal points in 90 pictures: biographical, architectural motifs and snapshots of the urban rhythm of life in the megacity – of passers-by, Jewish shops and shops with Italian, Syrian, Asian groceries, muscular longshoremen, excited ship passengers staring from deck at Manhattan, sunbathers at Coney Island, Chinese newspaper vendors, children; of all ethnicities in Harlem.

Master with magnifying glass: Andreas Feininger,

Master with magnifying glass: Andreas Feininger, “Self-Portrait”, 1946Andreas Feininger Archive c/o Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen

Visitors to the exhibition can virtually experience how Andreas Feininger, with his homemade telephoto lens, optically compressed the distances between the houses in such a way that one feels like in Gulliver’s Travels, tiny between the huge skyscrapers. His passion and sense for constructivist compositions stretching towards the sky were already developed in the Bauhaus years in Dessau. Andreas Feininger studied architecture.

You can literally feel how the newcomer was fascinated and a little alienated by the Manhattan skyline at night. And he photographed a New York landscape that no longer exists today: single-family houses “grow” on meadows like white and colorful flowers, the atmosphere is almost rural and the Empire State Building rises on the horizon like a surreal structure. The photographer captured all of this in all weathers and in daylight and at night, in sun, rain and snow flurries. This resulted in indescribable moods.

Andreas Feininger, Lower East Side Kids on a Brooklyn Dock, New York, 1940

Andreas Feininger, Lower East Side Kids on a Brooklyn Dock, New York, 1940Andreas Feininger Archive c/o Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen

He was obviously particularly taken with the Brooklyn Bridge. He photographed her with his plate camera day and night as a mysterious silhouette in the fog. Seeing her is the culmination of this homage by a migrant to the city of his permanent refuge. Andreas Feininger then learned English very quickly.

Andreas Feininger: New York in the Forties. Bröhan Museum, Schloßstr. 1 a (Charlottenburg), Tue–Sun 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Bis May 28th

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