Emil Nolde was a pioneer expressionist and colourist who tried to ingratiate himself with the Nazism of Heinrich Himmler and Adolf Hitler. An exceptionally large number of the artist's paintings however were included in the Degenerate Art exhibition in Munich in 1937. The artist was also banned from making art, but made watercolours secretly.Read More
Born Emil Hansen, Nolde worked on his parent's land until 1884, when he attended the Sauermann furniture carving school (1884–1888), Flensburg and obtained a diploma. Nolde then went to Munich, where he was employed as a carver, and then likewise in Karlsruhe. There, he attended classes at the School of Decorative Arts. In 1889 he moved to Berlin, where he was employed as a design draftsman in the Pfaff furniture factory.
He became ill but acquired a teaching position in 1892 in St. Gallen, Switzerland at the School of Applied Arts. This he resigned in 1898, entering the private art school of Friedrich Fehr in Munich. He started making etchings, and then enrolled in the Adolf Hölzel School in Dachau.
Starting to travel at the turn of century, Nolde went to Denmark and then France. After visiting Le Havre, Paris, Hamburg, Sicily, and Copenhagen, he changed his name to Nolde in 1901. He became a great admirer of James Ensor and Vincent van Gogh.
In 1906, Emil Nolde was invited by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff to join the expressionist Die Brücke group in Dresden. He exhibited in Dresden and began to make woodcuts, including Storm (1906) and Egyptian Woman II (1910). He also continued making etchings, such as Flensburg Harbour (1907), and lithographs, like Music Hall III (1907–1915).
Nolde's paintings and prints are distinctive for their saturated colour, sense of raw intensity, distorted line, and tormented interiority. Even though he joined the Nazi party in 1920 and knew top Nazis personally, a great many of Nolde's works were confiscated or destroyed.
In the early 1930s Nolde wrote a two-volume autobiography, Das eigene Leben (My Own Life) (1932) and Jahre der Kämpfe (Years of Struggle) (1934), hoping unsuccessfully to win Nazi favour and claiming he was a patriotic (and likewise antisemitic) German.
Initially 'whitewashed' in post-war art historical accounts, Nolde is more candidly discussed now. He is known for the portrait paintings and prints Red-Haired Girl (1919) and Self Portrait (c. 1917), the biblical scenes Crucifixion (1912), The Last Supper (1909), The Burial of Christ (1915), and Christ and the Sinner (1926), and the fields of flowers Sunflowers (1930) and Dahlias and Sunflowers (1928).
Nolde has been the subject of many solo and group exhibitions.
Recent solo exhibitions include Emil Nolde, Galerie Thomas, Munich (2021); Piece unique 3/2020, Galerie Schwarzer, Dusseldorf (2020); A German Legend: Emil Nolde and the Nazi Regime, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2019); Emil Nolde: Retrospective, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk (2014); Emil Nolde: Fabre ist Kraft; Kraft ist Fabre, Galerie Ludorff, Dusseldorf (2010).
Recent group exhibitions include The Human Figure in the Art of the Twentieth Century, Galerie Thomas, Munich (2021); Fine Art Classics: Impressionism to Contemporary, Galerie Kovacek & Zetter, Vienna (2021); Art for Happiness, Galerie Ludorff, Dusseldorf (2020); The Three Expressionists: Munch, Nolde, Kirchner, Beck and Eggeling, Dusseldorf (2019).
Nolde's work in held in major institutional collections throughout the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Guggenheim Museum, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Hamburger Kunsthalle, Berlin; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Brücke Museum, Berlin; and Nolde Foundation Seebüll.
John Hurrell | Ocula | 2022