Emil Nolde

Emil Nolde (* 7 August 1867 as Emil Hansen in Nolde; † 13 April 1956 in Seebüll) was one of the leading German Expressionists. His colourful, expressive watercolours in particular left their mark on 20th-century German art.

Emil Hansen is born on 7 August 1867 in the village of Nolde. At the age of 35 he will change his name to Emil Nolde. This is seen as a personal, but also artistic commitment to his homeland and a landscape that shapes his entire oeuvre. In 1884 Emil Nolde began an apprenticeship as a wood sculptor, which was followed by an apprenticeship in industrial drawing at the Museum of Industry and Trade in St. Gallen from 1892 to 1897. In 1898 he began studying painting in Munich at Friedrich Fehr's school, but in 1899 he transferred to the Hölzel school in Dachau. In the same year the artist travels to Paris and enrols at the Académie Julien.
He returned to Germany and married Ada Vilstrup in 1902. In 1903 the couple moved to the Danish island of Alsen. His landscape and garden paintings increasingly gain colour, so that the artists' association "Brücke" encourages him to join. Nolde accepted this invitation in 1906, but left again in 1907. A year later Nolde joined the Berlin Secession, from which he was expelled in 1910 after a dispute with its president Max Liebermann. The artists' association "Neue Secession" was formed in Berlin, in whose ...
Nolde played a major role in its foundation. The artist spends the winter months with his wife in Berlin, where he mainly produces pictures of nightlife in Berlin and mask still lifes. In 1911 and 1912 he created the nine-part painting 'The Life of Christ'. His religious paintings bring him great attention, but public reactions differ greatly.

In 1913/14 Nolde undertakes a trip to the South Seas with his wife Ada, during which he creates numerous watercolours, paintings and smaller wooden sculptures. In 1916 the artist moves to Utenwarf and in 1920 accepts Danish citizenship, although he continues to feel German.

Emil Nolde in Seebüll

In 1927 he is awarded an honorary doctorate from Kiel University. In the same year the couple acquired an empty mound near Neukirchen and named it Seebüll. The artist plans to build a home with a studio and a lush flower garden there, which will serve as a source of artistic inspiration for him. Ada and Emil Nolde move into the adjacent farmhouse in 1927 before moving into the completed residence in 1930.
On the occasion of Nolde's 60th birthday in 1927, extensive anniversary exhibitions are held in Dresden, Hamburg, Kiel, Essen and Wiesbaden.

In 1933 the artist falls ill with stomach cancer and has to undergo surgery in Hamburg in 1935. After the National Socialists came to power, 1052 of his works were confiscated in 1937, including 455 sheets from the Museum Folkwang in Essen. In 1941 he was excluded from the "Reichskunstkammer" (Reich Chamber of Art), which prohibited him from any professional activity in the field of fine arts. In 1944, his Berlin studio was bombed out, resulting in the loss of around 3000 prints, watercolours and drawings, as well as works from his collection by Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Oskar Kokoschka and Lyonel Feininger, among others.

Ada Nolde died on 2 November 1946. On 22 February 1948 Nolde marries the 26-year-old Jolanthe Erdmann, daughter of the pianist friend Eduard Erdmann. Among many other awards, he is awarded the Stephan Lochner Medal of the City of Cologne in 1949, the Graphic Arts Prize of the XXVI Venice Biennale in 1950, and the Order "Pur le mérite" in 1952.

Emil Nolde dies on 13 April 1956 in Seebüll. The Seebüll Ada and Emil Nolde Foundation, established in his will, is recognised as a foundation with legal capacity on 12 June 1956. The "Unpainted Pictures" created during and after the war are increasingly exhibited in Germany and abroad from 1961 onwards and attract great interest from the press and the public. Emil Nolde was anti-Semitic throughout his life and only tried to distance himself from the National Socialists after the World War.

Herbstblumen (klein), 1945, Oil on canvas, 28 × 68 cm

Berglandschaft (im Vordergrund rechts zwei Häuser), -, watercolor on paper, 36,5 × 46 cm

Fünf Tulpen, violette und blaue Blüte, -, watercolor on paper, 27,8 × 35,3 cm

Schiffe im Wind, 1910, oil on canvas, 36,5 × 49 cm

Geschwister (im Profil nach links), 1938-45, watercolor on paper, 22,7 × 17,4 cm

Sonnenblumen auf blauem Grund, 1930/35, Watercolor on Japanese paper, 35,5 × 47 cm

Haus auf einem Berg, 1938-45, watercolor on paper, 17,3 × 23,5 cm


Apprenticeship as a wood sculptor.
Teacher for industrial drawing at the Museum of Industry and Trade in St. Gallen.
Moves to Munich and attends Friedrich Fehr's private painting school. In summer 1899 at the Hölzel school in Dachau.
Attends the Académie Julien, Paris. Returns to Nolde in the summer.
Marriage to Ada Vilstrup.
Member of the artist group "Brücke".
Member of the "Berlin Secession".
Expulsion from the "Berlin Secession". Nolde is co-founder of the "Neue Sezession", Berlin.
Journey to the South Seas.
Nolde accepts Danish citizenship.
Honorary doctorate from Kiel University.
Move to Seebüll.
Member of the Prussian Academy of Arts, Berlin.
Nolde falls ill with stomach cancer and undergoes surgery in Hamburg in 1935.
1052 works are confiscated. 48 works hang in the exhibition "Degenerate Art".
Despite a ban on painting, he creates more than 1000 small-format watercolours ("Ungemalte Bilder").
Exclusion from the "Reichskunstkammer".
The Berlin studio is bombed out.
Awarded the title of professor by the state government of Schleswig-Holstein. Death of Mrs Ada.
Marriage to Jolanthe Erdmann.
Stephan Lochner Medal of the City of Cologne.
Graphic Arts Prize of the XXVI Biennale, Venice.
Award of the Order "Pur le mérite".
Emil Nolde dies in Seebüll on 13 April. Establishment of the "Seebüll Ada and Emil Nolde Foundation".

Artist groups

Berlin Secession

In 1898 the Berlin Secession is founded as a counter-movement to the established academically oriented art scene. At the time of its foundation, the association consisted of 65 artists led by Max Liebermann, including Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Emil Nolde, Max Beckmann and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. The artists turn away from romanticised historicism and, inspired by everyday situations, develop a modern formal and pictorial language. During the years of its existence, the group organised independent exhibitions in its own premises, with a focus on the internationality of the works shown. The group's firm establishment in the art market brought new conflicts due to its size and the diversity of the artists. Thus, in 1910, the " New Secession" split off.

The artist group Brücke

The artists' group "Brücke" was founded in Dresden in 1905 by architecture students Fritz Bleyl, Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. Since none of them had completed any artistic studies, there is no art-theoretical approach as a fundament behind the group, unlike in the case of the "Blaue Reiter". What is ostensible is an urge for public visibility and recognition outside civic society. The group is an unconventional form of living community which reflects a uniform artistic style. 1910 marks the peak of the "bridge style", which is characterised, among other things, by intense colour contrasts, coarsening of forms and simplification of motifs. This sometimes develops from the preferred use of various printing techniques, such as woodcut and etching. The artists' main focus is on working quickly and intuitively in the outdoors and interpreting nature in a way that expresses one's senses. When the artists moved to Berlin in 1911, the urban environment became increasingly present in their lives and oeuvres. After increasing estrangement, the artists eventually separated in 1913. For a time, Hermann Max Pechstein, Otto Mueller and Emil Nolde, among others, joined the group and influenced the development of the "Brücke". Today, the works of the artists from the "Brücke" are considered, along with those of the "Blaue Reiter", to be the most important evidence of German Expressionism and can be found in many renowned art collections.

Classical Modernism

Classical Modernism comprises various art and style movements of the first half of the 20th century. Especially across countries, there is a great heterogeneity of the arts, whereby not all artists and works can be clearly categorised. Classical Modernism includes not only the visual arts but also design, architecture and photography. The tremendous wealth of currents and tendencies in Classical Modernism shows similarities and differences and proves how strong the exchange among artists is beyond national borders and stylistic movements. Alongside the artists of Expressionism, Surrealism, Cubism, Futurism, New Objectivity and various other avant-garde movements, painters such as Marc Chagall, Marino Marini, Lovis Corinth, Marcel Duchamp, Egon Schiele, Hannah Höch, Maria Lassnig, Max Ernst, Robert Delaunay and Paul Klee belong to Classical Modernism.

New Secession

November Group

The "Novembergruppe" was founded in Berlin in 1918, shortly after the November Revolution. Until its dissolution in 1933 when the National Socialists seized power, over 170 artists were members of this trend-setting movement. Initiated by Max Pechstein and César Klein, the association brought together artists working in the Expressionist, Futurist and Cubist movements such as Lyonel Feininger, Paul Klee, Alexej von Jawlensky, Willi Baumeister, Wassily Kandinsky, Otto Mueller and Christian Rohlfs. This syncretism also asserts itself in the unification of art, music, architecture, theatre and philosophy that the group advocates. Members asked for a say in matters of art policy, such as the acquisition of art for public collections, art policy and the provision of exhibition space.