Two deaths in the arts

In the NYT on July 16, two obits for artists: T. Lux Feininger (painter and photographer), at 101, and Josef Suk (violinist, sometime violist, and founder of several chamber music groups), at 81. (Obits by William Grimes and Allan Kozinn, respectively.)

Feininger, the younger brother of the photographer Andreas Feininger and the son of the painter Lyonel Feininger, was associated especially with the Bauhaus and with Harvard, Cambridge, and Boston.

Suk, the grandson of the violinist and composer Josef Suk and great-grandson of the composer Antonín Dvořák, had a life grounded in Prague and in chamber music.

Feininger first. A compact account of his teenage years, from Grimes:

At 16 he became a student at the Bauhaus, which had moved to Dessau. There he collaborated in Oskar Schlemmer’s experimental theater, played in the Bauhaus jazz band, and studied painting with Josef Albers, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky.

An announcement of an exhibition assembled for his 100th birthday, showing the Bauhaus days:

and his 1927 photo “Charleston on the Bauhaus Roof,” showing the artist Xanti Schawinsky with Clemens Röseler on banjo:

Grimes on one set of Feininger’s paintings:

His maritime paintings, often of old-fashioned sailing ships, had flat, simplified forms and uninterrupted blocks of color that seemed to put him in the camp of the magic realists but also had the flavor of children’s book illustration. A critic for The New York Times, reviewing Mr. Feininger’s first one-man show in Manhattan in 1937, noted “a queer affinity in spirit to Currier & Ives prints or the Rousseau vein.”

Two samples: Ship in the Gulf of Siam (1931) and Skipper’s Daughter (1932):

(On magic realism, see previous postings in this blog: in literature and in Edward Hopper, Paul Cadmus, and Jack Frankfurter, here; in George Tooker, here; and in Robert Vickrey, here.)

Finally, this comment from Grimes:

The Busch-Reisinger Museum [at Harvard] organized a retrospective of his work in 1962. His Bauhaus photographs were shown in the exhibition “Dancing on the Roof: Photography and the Bauhaus (1923-1929)” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2001.

The Busch-Reisinger Museum was where I first saw his work, in my first year at grad school at MIT. That’s how I remember him.

On to Suk, who had a long and successful career as a soloist but excelled as a collaborator; various kinds of chamber music were his métier. He tended to be a blender rather than a virtuoistic sparkler, and the performances I love (with the superb harpsichordist Zuzana Růžičková, with the pianist Julius Katchen, and with Katchen together with the cellist Janos Starker) are luminous. I’m listening to them today.

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