The Kin-der-kids, by Lyonel Feiniger
'The Kin-der-kids' (15 July 1906).

Lyonel Feininger was an early 20th-century German-American Expressionist and Cubist painter, who also had an interesting career in comics. He created two children's comics, 'The Kin-der Kids' (1906) and 'Wee Willie Winkie's World' (1906-1907), which both lasted only half a year, but were very influential in the development of newspaper comics. Feininger was one of the earliest comic artists to use a continuous storyline. His highly imaginative art work displays interesting uses of linework and colour which still inspire artists today. Together with Wilhelm Busch, Winsor McCay and George Herriman he is one of the earliest newspaper comic pioneers whose work is considered high art.  

Early life and career
Lyonel Feininger was born in 1871 in New York City as the son of German violinist and composer Karl Feininger and American singer Elizabeth Feininger. At the age of 18, he left the States to study arts. He attended the Berlin Art Academy (1887-1891) and the Colarossi Academy in Paris (1892). When he returned to Berlin, he initially gained fame as a caricaturist and cartoonist. His work appeared in magazines and papers from all over the world, including  Harper's Round Table, Harper's Young People, Humoristische Blätter, Das Narrenschiff, Berliner Tageblatt and Ulk. He was one of the most notable artists in the satirical weekly Lustige Blätter. Between 1901 and 1903 his art was represented at the exhibitions of the annual Berliner Secession. 

Comics career
In 1906, Feininger was one of the German artists selected by Chicago Tribune editor James Keeley to publish in his Sunday comics section. Even though he spent most of his time in Weimar, Germany, and Paris, France. Other German cartoonists in those pages were Victor Schramm, Karl Pommerhanz, Hans Horina, Lothar Meggendorfer, Karl Staudinger and August von Meissl. Although his tenure as a comic artist was short, Feininger effectively made his mark in comic history with the avant-garde Sunday pages 'The Kin-der-Kids' (1906) and 'Wee Willie Winkie's World' (1906 -1907). Like his contemporary Winsor McCay with 'Little Nemo in Slumberland' in The New York Herald, Feininger shaped highly imaginative and surreal worlds. The Sunday pages were true works of art, where the artist ornamented his panels to one entity. He often signed with "Your Uncle Feininger". Although 'The Kin-der-Kids' and 'Wee Willie Winkie's World' were Feininger first and last entry in the world of comics, he would use some of his comic strip ideas in his later paintings and wooden sculptures. 

The kin-der-kids, by Lyonel Feininger
'Wee Willie Winkie's World' (19 August 1906).

The Kin-der-Kids
Between 29 April and 18 November 1906, Feininger's series 'The Kin-der-Kids' ran in The Chicago Tribune. It tells the adventures of three children, all brothers. Daniel Webster is a brilliant mind. Pie-Mouth loves to eat, while Strenuous Teddy is incredibly strong. One day they climb in their bathtub and set sail to explore the world. Daniel's blue dachshund, Sherlock Bones, travels along. During their journey, the kids also pick up a mechanical boy who fell in the ocean from a Japanese submarine. They name him "Little Japansky". Although the children travel alone, they are followed by their aunt Jim-Jam, who is worried that they'll skip their daily dose of castor oil. Flanked by her pet cat and son Gussie, Jim-Jam uses a hot-air balloon to keep track of her dear relatives. On the way she picks up another traveller, Mr. Buggins. Nevertheless Jim-Jam has nothing to worry about. The Kin-der-Kids are guided and protected by Mysterious Pete, a ghostly figure who gives them instructions and additional help from the clouds. The Kin-der-Kids' was unusual at the time for being a continuous story. 

Wee Willie Winkie's World
'Wee Willie Winkie's World', which ran from 19 August 1906 until 20 January 1907, painted an even more surreal world. Contrary to 'The Kin-der-Kids', which used speech balloons, the narrative in 'Wee Willie Winkie' is presented as a text comic, with text underneath the images. Instead of a group of children, only one little boy, Willie Winkie, is the protagonist. In each episode he observes his environment and imagines anthropomorphic creatures out of objects, animals, weather phenomena, trees and elements. Another major difference with 'The Kin-der-Kids', is that 'Wee Willie Winkie's World' features self-contained stories. 

Wee Willie Winkie's World
'Wee Willie Winkie's World' (23 September 1906).

Later life, career and death
After leaving the comic industry, Feininger gained fame as an Expressionist and Cubist painter. He was affiliated with the artistic groups Die Brücke, the Novembergruppe, Gruppe 1919, the Blaue Reiter circle and Die Blaue Vier ("The Blue Four"). From 1919 on, he became a teacher in printmaking at the famous art school Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany. Apart from painting and sculpting, he was also active as a hobby photographer and a composer. He wrote many compositions for piano and organ. 

Unfortunately Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany in 1933. The Nazis hated experimental art, which they deemed "degenerate". Therefore Feininger felt it was safer to leave his home country and move to the United States. He taught art at Mills College in San Francisco's Bay Area, before returning to New York.  Feininger often expressed the desire to return to making comics, but never got around to do so. He passed away in 1956. His son, Andreas Feininger, later became a famous photographer, best known for his iconic picture, 'The Photojournalist' (1951). 

In 1955 Feininger was inducted in the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Legacy and influence
Lyonel Feininger is widely acknowledged as one of the most important early comic pioneers. His work expresses great imagination, with wonderful, poetic, sometimes surreal images. His work enjoyed a revival in the 1970s, when his work was reprinted by Italian publisher Aldo Garzanti. In 1991 an asteroid was named after Feininger. His work was a strong influence on Geoffrey Foladori, Edward Gorey, Art Spiegelman and Igort. The entirety of Feininger's comics is available in a single volume: 'The Comic Strip Art of Lyonel Feininger' (Kitchen Sink Press, 1994). 

The Kin-der-kids by Lyonel Feininger
'The Kin-der-Kids'. Dutch-language version. 

Series and books by Lyonel Feininger you can order today:


If you want to help us continue and improve our ever- expanding database, we would appreciate your donation through Paypal.