Clara Fürst was born on 15 February 1879 in Berlin, the daughter of Jewish painter and sculptor Gustav Fürst and his non-Jewish wife. Clara’s brother Edmund (1874-1955) studied for some years at the Berlin academy of art, and it was probably through him that she met his fellow student, the German-American painter, graphic artist and caricaturist Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956). Clara Fürst and Lyonel Feininger were married in 1901. Their daughter Eleonore was born the same year and Marianne in 1902.
However, Lyonel Feininger soon left his wife and children to marry a second time. From about 1915 on, for some twenty years, Clara Feininger lived at Birkbusch Straße 6 in Berlin-Steglitz. She was listed in the Berlin directories as a pianist. Her daughter Eleonore Feininger, a photographer who specialized in architectural and industrial photography as well as portraiture, lived in the same house for a time.
While Edmund Fürst migrated to Palestine with his family in 1934 and Lyonel Feininger, whose Cubism-influenced art was branded “degenerate” by the Nazis, moved to the United States in 1937, Clara Feininger remained in Berlin. She probably lived off the alimony Lyonel Feininger had to pay her after their divorce in 1907.
Around 1939 she lived for a time in Schöneiche, outside Berlin, but returned to the city to live at Beethoven Straße 29 in Lichtenrade, as a subtenant of Hildegard and Werner Braun. Under the Nuremberg “race laws” Clara Feininger was classified as a Jew by legal validity (“Geltungsjüdin”). The fact that she had left the Jewish Community in February 1938 did not protect her from persecution. On 10 January 1944 she was deported on the 99th transport of the elderly to Theresienstadt and on 23 October 1944 to Auschwitz. She did not survive.