Painter Frederick Feigl was born in 1884 in Prague, then a provincial capital within the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now the Czech Republic). Having studied briefly at the Academy of Arts in Prague, from which he was expelled for his over-zealous enthusiasm for avant-garde artists such as Edvard Munch, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, Feigl co-founded the modernist group Osma with Emila Filla, Antonín Procházka, Bohuslav Kubiŝta, Otakár Kubin, Emil Longhen, Willi Nowak and Max Horb which, according to Czechoslovak émigré art historian, and later supporter of Feigl in exile, J. P. Hodin, 'strove […] to break with the dogma of the imitation of nature which reactionary Prague then demanded and to wrestle with the new problems of colour and form' (Hodin, 1964). With a bursary from the German Academy of Arts and Sciences in Prague, Feigl studied at the Antwerp Academy of Art and the Académie Julian in Paris. He lived in Hamburg from 1910, establishing a significant reputation in Germany, prior to spending one year in Palestine in 1932. He returned to Czechoslovakia in 1933 but fled Prague in April 1939 after the Nazi occupation. Although not featured in the 1937 Entartete Kunst exhibition, the Nazis considered Feigl's work 'degenerate'. It was therefore confiscated between 1937-38 and removed from public collections across Germany. Advised by Oskar Kokoschka, who had known Feigl's gallerist brother, Hugo, in Prague (who was already in England), Feigl and his wife, Margarethe, requested help from the British Consulate in Cologne, and were able to travel to London, settling first in Battersea, then Highgate and, finally, Hampstead, making contact with local resident, émigré artist, Fred Uhlman, co-founder of the Artists' Refugee Committee, which operated from his Hampstead home.
Feigl's earliest London showing, in late June 1939, was in refugee company in the First Group Exhibition of German, Austrian, Czechoslovakian Painters and Sculptors at the Wertheim Gallery, under the auspices of the Free German League of Culture (FGLC, a politically-inclined refugee organisation, co-founded by Uhlman, which supported German-speakers during the war). Continuing to exhibit within wider émigré circles, in 1941 Feigl helped to organise (and showed in) Leicester Museum and Art Gallery's first exhibition by Czechoslovak émigrés; in 1942 he participated in the British Council and CEMA (Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts, precursor to the Arts Council) exhibition, Works by Allied Artists. In 1943, he showed both with established London dealer, Lefevre Galleries, and in the more politicised Artists Aid Jewry Exhibition, Whitechapel Art Gallery. In 1944 Feigl's Czech identity was celebrated with a 60th birthday exhibition at the Czechoslovak Institute, comprised of works painted in exile. The catalogue foreword by Czechoslovak poet, translator and diplomat, Victor Kripner, acknowledged Feigl's as: 'one of the most outstanding personalities among the Czechoslovak artists living abroad […], carrying on his artistic efforts in circumstances which might easily discourage many of his younger colleagues'. From 1945, Feigl showed with Ben Uri, including in its annual open exhibitions of work by Jewish artists; Festival of Britain Anglo-Jewish Exhibition 1851-1951 Art Section; Tercentenary Exhibition of Contemporary Anglo-Jewish Artist (1956), and Twelve Contemporary Artists: Archibald Ziegler, Alfred Harris, Claude Rogers, Jacob Bornfriend, Morris Kestelman, Frank Auerbach, John Coplans, Kalman Kemeny, Josef Herman, Alfred Daniels, Henry Inlander, Fred Feigl (1958). Feigl also held a solo exhibition in 1964 celebrating his 80th birthday and was a member of Ben Uri's Art Committee during the 1950s.
Feigl regularly found artistic inspiration and conviviality in London's cafes and restaurants, which he referred to as 'the market places of life'. Attempting to recreate continental 'kaffe haus' culture in exile, refugees gathered at venues such as the Cosmo, on Finchley Road, West Hampstead, close to Feigl's home, and that of his close neighbour, Hodin - though Feigl lived in a multi-occupancy house full of émigrés, and the professor, in detached arts and crafts splendour. Feigl also depicted motifs from Jewish life, biblical lore, Greek myth, and the landscape, developing an affinity with the quintessentially English medium of watercolour. He often painted en plein air, sometimes accompanied on art trips by a young Indian painter, Usha Shah, who also, perhaps surprisingly, exhibited with Ben Uri. However, despite his prewar success and support from Hodin, Feigl's reputation in England remained largely unfulfilled. Fred (as he had become known in England) Feigl died in London in 1965. A retrospective Friedrich Feigl The Eye Sees the World was held in the Czech Republic in 2016 (Cheb Gallery of Fine Arts, followed by a showing in České Budějovice), accompanied by a monograph in Czech and German, edited by the exhibition's curator, Professor Nicholas Sawicki, incorporating an essay on Feigl's years in Britain co-authored by Ben Uri curators. Feigl's work is represented in both international and UK collections, including the Ben Uri Collection and Leicester Museum & Art Gallery.