NOLDE Emil
German painter; born 1867 at Nolde, in Schleswig. His real name was Emil Hansen and he was born of a DanishFrisian family. About 1904 he changed his name to that of his native village and from then on signed his canvases Nolde. A teacher of drawing, he devoted himself entirely to painting from 1898 on. He studied in Munich, Paris and Copenhagen. In 1904, after Impressionist beginnings, his touch became stronger and more free, and colour played a more active part in his work. In addition to landscapes of his native region, its sea, swamps, and gardens, fantastic and grotesque figures began to appear in his canvases. From 1906 to 1907 he participated in the Brücke, but later, being of an unsociable and solitary nature, he remained outside all groups. In 1908 his art attained its most monumental form, and colour charged with expression burst out in unrestrained force. As early as 1909 he produced large religious compositions: The Last Supper, Whitsun, Joseph Tells His Dream; also figures from a personal mythology, such as the Old Pasha or The Warrior and His Wife. At the same time, masks, primitive statuettes and exotic textiles appeared in his still lifes. In 1913-1914 he was a member of an ethnological expedition that travelled to Russia, China, Japan and reached Polynesia. What he discovered in the latter area was not so much the more authentic life that Gauguin had sought as an elemental demoniac essence in the attitudes of the primitive beings that he studied with keen interest. Later, Nolde was bitterly attacked by the Nazis, who went so far as to forbid him to paint. As a watercolourist and engraver he did important work (etchings, lithographs, woodcuts, from 1905 to 1922), which is among the most exciting in contemporary German art. A demon chained to earth, Nolde seems to have shaped the landscapes, flowers and the savages or girls he represents with their luxuriance of flesh from the very earth itself. And the colours he generously spreads out on his canvas are opaque and dazzling, like earth on fire. Colour does not represent, it is the magic presence of things and men on the canvas, and thus their primitive being is unmasked before the spectator with a sudden shock. Mystical in his way, Nolde discovered a religiosity in the very heart of the most primitive sensuality.
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