German Expressionism

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Emil Nolde

German, 1867–1956

Starr Figura, German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 2011

Painter, printmaker, watercolorist. First trained as a woodcarver; later studied painting and developed style involving intense color and thick, gestural impasto. Changed name to Nolde, his birthplace, in 1902. Invited to join Brücke in 1906 by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, who introduced him to woodcut. In return, taught Brücke members his innovative etching techniques. An independent personality, left Brücke after only one year, but remained friendly with the group. Expelled from Berlin Secession in 1910 after vehemently criticizing Max Liebermann for rejecting Expressionist paintings. Explored typical Expressionist themes of urban nightlife, but had a more abiding devotion to biblical scenes and northern landscapes, as well as "primitive" and phantasmagorical subjects. In 1913–14, with wife, Ada, traveled overland via Russia to German New Guinea, accompanying a German colonial expedition. Subsequently made paintings, watercolors, and prints based on travels.

Ultimately produced 525 prints, almost all before 1926, mostly unpublished etchings and woodcuts in black and white; frequently developed his images through several states. Often used lithography to experiment with color, including several monumental works printed in numerous color variations in 1913.

Initially sympathetic to National Socialism. Nazis nevertheless confiscated 1,052 works, more than from any other artist. Prohibited by Nazis from painting in 1941; worked secretly in watercolor. His studio in Berlin, with archive of his prints, was destroyed by bombs in 1944.

Selected Bibliography

Ackley, Clifford S., Timothy O. Benson, and Victor Carlson. Nolde: The Painter's Prints. Exh. cat. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1995.

Moeller, Magdalena M., and Manfred Reuther, eds. Emil Nolde: Druckgraphik aus der Sammlung der Nolde-Stiftung Seebüll. Exh. cat. Berlin: Brücke-Museum, 1999.

Schiefler, Gustav, and Christel Mosel. Emil Nolde: Das graphische Werk. 2 vols. Cologne: DuMont, 1995.

Vergo, Peter, and Felicity Lunn, eds. Emil Nolde. Exh. cat. London: Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1995.

Heather Hess

Published by Emil Nolde

  • Emil Nolde. Joy in Life (Lebensfreude) from the series Fantasies (Phantasien). (1905)
    Emil Nolde
    Joy in Life (Lebensfreude) from the series...
    Emil Nolde. Joy in Life (Lebensfreude) from the series Fantasies (Phantasien). (1905)
  • Emil Nolde. General and Aide (General und Diener) from the portfolio Fairy-Tales (Märchen). 1906
    Emil Nolde
    General and Aide (General und Diener) from the...
    Emil Nolde. General and Aide (General und Diener) from the portfolio Fairy-Tales (Märchen). 1906
  • Emil Nolde. Dancer. 1913
    Emil Nolde
    Emil Nolde. Dancer. 1913
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