Portrait of the artist Emil Nolde

Emil Nolde

1867-1956 - German Expressionist

Emil Nolde was born as Hans Emil Hansen and named himself after his birthplace in 1902. Nolde is considered one of the most important German Expressionists. When he was rejected by the Munich Academy of Fine Arts, he moved to Paris to study at the Académie Julien. Starting in 1905 he lived and worked on the Danish island of Alsen and in Berlin and was a member of the revolutionary expressionist group "Die Brücke" (The Bridge) for a short time and of the Berlin Secession.

Shortly after Nolde left the artists' association "Die Brücke" at the end of 1907, he met the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch in Berlin, whose work impressed him greatly. During the visit of his friend Hans Fehr in 1908, he began to discover the technique of watercolour painting and finally how to realise it with virtuosity.

Today, Nolde's oeuvre includes numerous watercolour works, oil paintings, graphic works and several sculptures. His intensive use of colour is characteristic. Although the artist always remained figurative in his motifs (e.g. landscapes, flowers, city scenes, religious motifs), he "composed" his pictures entirely from colour. When Nolde moved into his brick house "Seebüll" in Neukirchen in northern Germany in 1927, he surrounded it with a large garden that offered him motifs in abundance.

Difficult years were to follow. Nolde's position on National Socialism was, as research has long-established, quite complicated. The fact remains: more than 1,000 of his works were confiscated and removed from museums, 48 of his works were exhibited in the infamous "Entartete Kunst" ("Degenerate Art") exhibition in 1937, and in 1941 he was even banned from working - a fate that otherwise only befell the painter Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and the sculptor Edwin Scharff. Nolde reacted by secretly creating about 1,300 "unpainted pictures": small-format watercolours, often in experimental colour composition. This established his post-war fame. In 1955, the works of the 84-year-old were exhibited at the first documenta, and also, after his death, at the second one in 1959.

Works by Emil Nolde can be found in the collections of high-ranking museums worldwide, including the Art Institute in Chicago, the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Brücke Museum in Berlin, the Albertina in Vienna and the Kunstmuseum in Basel, etc. Moreover, foundations have been established in his honour in Seebüll and Berlin.