Dances on the Roof of the Meisterhaus

Dances on the Roof of the Meisterhaus

Lyonel Feininger, a master at the Bauhaus from the first day to the last, was the longest-serving employee at the school. Born in New York but with German roots, he served the Bauhaus in Weimar, Dessau, and finally, Berlin. In Dessau, he occupied half of one of the three semi-detached houses designated for the Bauhaus masters. These residences were nestled among the trees on a property that resembled a forest, a setup devised by Bauhaus founder and director Walter Gropius.

Feininger’s family moved in with him: his second wife Julia and their children Andreas, Laurence, and T. Lux. The children grew up with the Bauhaus, experiencing both the hateful attacks of the right in Weimar and the jubilation of freedom and creativity in the workshops. In 1926, the family relocated to Dessau.

The family’s life and artistic activities revolved around Feininger’s half of the house. Julia had been a guest student at the Bauhaus in Weimar, and Andreas and T. Lux attended school in Weimar and Dessau, respectively. Laurence, however, took a different route. He showed great musical talent, playing the piano and organ, and went on to study musicology.

Youngest student and chronicler

T. Lux, born in 1910, became the family chronicler. He captured the family’s activities and their joy of life on camera. As the youngest Bauhaus student at 16, he embraced the Bauhaus spirit like no other. He was fascinated by the new architecture of the school buildings and the masters’ houses, but he was also very much in tune with his father’s romantic spirit.

According to the book “T. Lux Feininger and his Bauhaus family”, which accompanies the exhibition, the Feiningers rarely lived together at the same time. However, they always found a way to reunite in Dessau. The exhibition owes much to the loans from the estate of Conrad Feininger, T. Lux’s son. Conrad, who lived to the ripe age of 101, cherished the memorabilia from the Bauhaus period. Unfortunately, the dining room furniture that Andreas, who initially trained as a carpenter, crafted for the Dessau home is no longer available.

The exhibition also features four short films that contextualize the showcased treasures. Lyonel, born in 1871, is depicted as a romantic enthralled by nature’s secrets. He found solace in the vastness of the sea and the equally expansive sky, often accompanied by a sailboat and his son T. Lux. Like his father, T. Lux carved imaginative figures for their Christmas tree and created masks for the Bauhaus stage in 1927/28.

Julia Feininger: More than an artist’s wife

Julia was more than just the manager of the family’s life, as some literature suggests. After studying at the Grand Ducal Art School in Weimar – where she met Lyonel, her second husband, in 1905 – she created remarkable collages from colored paper. These were exhibited at the Berlin Museum of Decorative Arts in 1912. Two of these, along with a more recent work, are displayed in the exhibition and serve to challenge the traditional concept of the artist’s wife.

The exhibition, staged in the rooms of the master’s house, is brought to life primarily by T. Lux’s photographs. Unlike Lucia Moholy, the quasi-official Bauhaus photographer, T. Lux was more interested in capturing the lively activities of his family and fellow students, even photographing them jumping on the terrace. Andreas, who later enjoyed a global career as a photographer in New York, captured surprisingly bourgeois interiors, complete with a grand piano in the carpeted living room.

For those who have only known the Bauhaus as a design factory, this small, yet exquisite exhibition offers a fresh perspective. It portrays the Bauhaus as a way of life, a utopia that became a reality during the Dessau years from 1926 to 1933.