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The Tug, 1934-1937

Lyonel Feininger

American, 1871-1956
Oil and pencil on canvas
16 x 19 in. (40.6 x 48.3 cm)
Norton Simon Museum, Gift of Mrs. Matilda H. Rummage
P.1992.2.1
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn Reproduction, including downloading of ARS works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

On view

Feininger began this scene of a tugboat towing a sailing ship decked with French and German flags during a summer holiday on the Baltic coast in 1934. He finished it three years later, reinforcing the straight, slender lines of the ships and rigging with pencil applied over the paint layers, on the eve of his departure from Germany. The Bauhaus—a progressive and hugely influential art school where Feininger had held various appointments since 1919—was forcibly closed by the Nazi government in 1933, and Feininger’s art was declared entartete (degenerate). Forced to flee his adopted homeland, Feininger returned to the United States in June 1937. With crisp lines, a bright palette, and the friendly juxtaposition of French and German flags, this composition conveys an optimism at odds with the grim historical circumstances in which it was painted.

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