Emil Nolde (7 August 1867 – 13 April 1956) was a German painter and printmaker. He was one of the first Expressionists, a member of Die Brücke, and is considered to be one of the great watercolour painters of the 20th century. He is known for his vigorous brushwork and expressive choice of colors. Golden yellows and deep reds appear frequently in his work, giving a luminous quality to otherwise somber tones. His watercolors include vivid, brooding storm-scapes and brilliant florals.
Nolde's intense preoccupation with the subject of flowers reflect his continuing interest in the art of Vincent Van Gogh.
Between 1884 and 1891, he studied to become a carver and illustrator in Flensburg. He spent his years of travel in Munich, Karlsruhe and Berlin. From 1906 to 1907 he was a member of the artist group Die Brücke (The Bridge).
Nolde was a supporter of the Nazi party from the early 1920s, having become a member of its Danish section. He expressed negative opinions about Jewish artists, and considered Expressionism to be a distinctively Germanic style. This view was shared by some other members of the Nazi party, notably Joseph Goebbels.
However Hitler rejected all forms of modernism as "degenerate art", and Nolde's work was officially condemned by the Nazi regime. Until that time he had been held in great prestige in Germany. Over 1000 of his works were removed from museums. Some were included in the Degenerate Art exhibition of 1937, despite his protests, including (later) a personal appeal to Nazi gauleiter Baldur von Schirach in Vienna. He was not allowed to paint—even in private—after 1941. Nevertheless, during this period he created hundreds of watercolors, which he hid. He called them the "Unpainted Pictures".
In 1942 Nolde wrote:
"There is silver blue, sky blue and thunder blue. Every colour holds within it a soul, which makes me happy or repels me, and which acts as a stimulus. To a person who has no art in him, colours are colours, tones tones...and that is all. All their consequences for the human spirit, which range between heaven to hell, just go unnoticed." (quoted in Nolde-Forbidden Pictures (exhibition catalogue), Marlsborough Fine Art Ltd., London, 1970,p.9)
After World War II, Nolde was once again honoured, receiving the German Order of Merit, the country's highest civilian decoration. He died in Seebüll (now part of Neukirchen). Apart from paintings, Nolde's work includes many prints, often in color and watercolor paintings of various sizes, including landscapes, religious images, flowers, stormy seas and scenes from Berlin nightlife. A famous series of paintings covers the German New Guinea Expedition, visiting the South Seas, Moscow, Siberia, Korea, Japan, and China. The Schiefler Catalogue raisonné of his prints describes 231 etchings, 197 woodcuts, 83 lithographs, and 4 hectographs.
Emil Nolde's work has become the focus of renewed attention after a painting entitled Blumengarten (Utenwarf) from 1917, which now hangs in the art museum Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden, was discovered to have been looted from Otto Nathan Deutsch, a German-Jewish refugee whose heirs, including a Holocaust survivor, are asking for its return. The Swedish government decided in 2007 that the museum must settle with the heirs. Deutsch was forced to flee Germany before World War II and left for Amsterdam in late 1938 or early 1939. The painting was sold to the Swedish museum at an auction in Switzerland, where it had resurfaced in 1967.
Other important works: