I want to draw people’s attention to an extraordinary and bright artist – Emil Nolde. I believe him to be an outstanding artist, because his works are absolutely contrasting. The emotions that the artist gives rise to vary from sadness to happiness, as the colors he chose are extravagant and a little bit provocative. He was fond of different art epochs, namely medieval times, Renaissance, French art, German landscapes, the art of V. van Gogh, E. Munch and P. Gauguin. Such different schools and trends have substantially influenced his work, and each period of his life is also reflected in his art. I can say that it is quite a contradictive artist. A lot of people do not understand his art and dislike his works, but from my point of view, his works deserve to be admired.
It is essential to look deeper into his life and artworks. Emil Nolde (born as Emil Hansen) is a famous German painter, printmaker, and watercolorist of the 20th century. He grew up in the village of Nolde and dedicated his pseudonym to his home place. He believed that Hansen is a too wide spread last name in Germany. He spent his young years on farm, among the beautiful German landscapes near the boundary to Denmark. At the age of 17, he became the apprentice of a wood carver; at that time, he also started practicing designing; later, he sold furniture. He worked in that industry for a few years in different big cities such as Munich, Berlin, etc. In Karlsruhe, he wanted to achieve his long-term dream and become a professional artist. In 1889, the Munich Academy of Fine arts decided against his wish to start a career of an artist; during next few years, he took private orders simultaneously with painting classes. At that period, he tried to get acquainted with the company of popular impressionists in Paris. In 1902, he found his wife, an actress Ada Vilstrup, and they migrated to Berlin, where the next period of his life took place.
He supported the Nazi party, but Hitler refused to believe modernism was a form of art, and all his attempts to become famous were rejected, as expressionism was out of popularity. A substantial amount of his works was removed from the museums, and the process of painting was prohibited for Emil Nolde. Only after 1945, Nolde returned on the artistic scene. He was honored and awarded. In 1956, he died and was buried near to his wife in Seebuhl. This artist is an example of a strong wish to create, power of will and true affection for the art. He showed that the art that goes out from the soul will be admired by people anyway. As the pivotal idea of modernism (which is to create something absolutely different, new and extraordinary from classicism, let the borders of imaginations get wider than only describing of the reality in straight forms) was incomprehensible for people in the 19-20th centuries, performing such an art was really risky and almost unprofitable. In this context, I consider this artist and a lot of modernists to be brave people, who worked not for the money, but for the art.
In addition, I admire this painter, because he presents different types of his works: oil paintings, watercolor works, etchings and graphic works. He was primarily a colorist, and his selection of colors is splendid: yellow golden, scarlet, deep violet are often in his palette.
Emil Nolde in the Art-Historical Context
As it was said, Emil Nolde was one of the modernists, and his works were not valued at his time as they should have been. He was a Nazi painter, but even in that community, he did not find the appreciation. He had an opposite point of view on art. His works are on absolutely different topics. As he grew up on the farm, surrounded by breathtaking landscapes, a lot of his works were impressed by his surroundings. In terms of his art in from the historical perspective, it is needless to say that Nolde was always fond of his homeland and wanted to create paintings there. Before 1933, he was a participant of the Nazi party and supported the whole idea of Nazism. The party tried to view the Nolde’s works as a high art, because they saw the supporting of Nazism in his works, especially of the brown revolution. During that period, he painted in dark and warm brown colors, and the party believed it to be connected with the German convictions. However, his endeavors were in vain, because Hitler, as a painter and political leader, prohibited his art. In that period, Nolde made a considerable input in watercolor covering. This prohibition pushed him to produce n a clandestine manner, small format works, graphic or with watercolour, incandescent landscapes, dreamlike visions and strange figures. He painted his works secretly, and as a result, the album “Unpainted Pictures” was made. After this album and especially because of his choice of colors, he is considered to be one of the best watercolorists in the 20th century. He also painted his oil works, but after the prohibition of his art and calling of his works “degenerative”, he stopped creating oil paintings, as the oil paint is accompanied by the specific smell. It was dangerous for him, so his watercolor postcards and paintings were the contributions to the art of the previous century.
He used to work in the religious area; however, such works were not appreciated by the society. The reasons of such a theme were a hard illness and also the fact that he was born in a religious family; nevertheless, this theme was left soon. It was painted in hard dark lines and mostly in yellow colors. The painter showed his love to yellow and red from the very beginning of his work.
Generally, he was an expressionist, and his contribution to this branch of modernism is of paramount significance. His works include diverse topics and are created by different impacts. The floristic collection deserves a specific attention, as he was impressed by Vincent van Gogh and painted flowers; that period can be called as the period of pure expressionism. The intense focus on the color, wide brush strokes, which distribute patches of color on the canvas surface – all this features lead to an unrelenting passion of Van Gogh’s art.
However, over time, the value of the line and composition is reduced to a minimum, the color begins to completely dominate the work and takes the artist and the viewer away from the specifics of the plot in the world of non-figurative paintings. He made a considerable contribution to the expressionism; his floristic works are the representatives of his views and tendencies of his epoch.
He is a talented, distinctive artist; it is sad that his contributions were routinely neglected for such a long time.
Imagery and Technique
Emil Nolde was an artist of expression. He reflected the emotions in colors and used different topics for his works. He loved the dramatic landscapes of his rural villages, sea side motives and also made etchings of the dark city places of Hamburg. The objects this painter reflected in his works were multiple: landscapes, flourish, urban nightlife, religion, primitive cultures, travels, different graphic works. His graphic works, especially his etchings, were original, emotional, sometimes dark and fantastic, and contributed towards his standing out of his contemporaries. Thus, such variety means the need in familiarization with different techniques and approaches. As the painter did not obtain a proper artist education, we can observe one recognizable style in his works. It is expressionism combined with impressionism (short, thick strokes of the brush, vibrant surface), but he is rather an expressionist, as the majority of his works show the predomination of emotions delivered through the color. Emil Nolde said: “Colors in vibration pilling like silver bells and changing like bronze bells, proclaiming happiness, passion and love, soul, blood and death.” He developed his style involving intense color and thick, gestural impasto. Emil Nolde used a substantial variety of color. His favorite was the yellow color in all of its diversity from golden to ocher and bronze. He used an extremely engaged palette to paint diminutive details, especially in landscapes, while in portrait paintings, he used thick and blurred lines and depicted clearly most of accessories (e.g. glasses, hat, parts of body, face). The usage of contrasting colors makes his works distinct and creates an accomplished portfolio for such a diverse artist. For example, I would like to observe his picture Landscape with Rain Clouds (1925), painted on an exceptionally dull, stormy, rainy day. He uses a dramatizing palette of colors to distinguish the farm house as it covers beneath grumous, bottle-green massive clouds that are penetrated through with an apricot light. The theme of clouds is also present in Light Clouds (1927), where he forms a symphony of night blue, heavy green and white. All his works are the colors oriented to agitate emotions and impress the person’s imagination. His portrait works are special. In some works, he uses very straight lines, which express only main parts of face or body. For example, the Woodcut (1927), a black and white work describing a pair of people, namely the man and the woman, with their faces depicted in straight lines. Furthermore, we can observe it in the picture Portrait of Young Girl (1913). However, the majority of pictures are bright; for instance, the work Goldsmiths (1919) describes two absolutely different types of people. One person is blond-haired with blush and excitement on the face, while the other one is dark and calm; the artist illustrates their emotions with the contrasted colors ranging from bright yellow to deep brown and violet.
The effectiveness of his colorful techniques can be described as positive. In his paintings, he was oriented to achieve emotions through the color of his expression, and a lot of pictures illustrate such effect. The perception of his art can be full only if the person observes it from the perspective of feelings the author wanted to deliver. The technique of fluent and temperamental manner he used in his flourish still life pictures leaves an imprint in minds of people. Nolde has the series of paintings devoted to the art of dance; it is essential to pay attention to them, because he used an interesting technique. The paintings are so dynamic that the viewer thinks they can become real at any time he or she observes them. Inspired by Berlin night, they carry a grotesquely fantastic basis. Bright colors, blurred motion dancers reproduce the expression of the wild moving, intensive inner ecstasy. He used the same technique in his works dedicated to the masks.
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What Attracted Me to Emil Nolde
Emil Nolde is a substantially interesting artist for me, primarily because of his color selection. His works are contradictive, and a lot of people do not understand his art. However, I see an outstanding artist beside it. He was the representative of expressionism; I admire modernism as a movement in general, because it was a strong impulse to change something, create new standards and show the whole world that there are another ways to see the reality, not only straight realism. Works of Emil Nolde are of diverse topics, and I believe it to be quite challenging. This painter was searching for himself in his works. Nolde tried himself in everything in order to find out in what area he is the best. As I have said previously I respect this painter because at that period, expressionism did not bring money or fame, and he gained it only at the end of his life. Nowadays, his works are highly regarded in society, after the French community found out in 2008 that Nolde had a passion to this country, and a large period was dedicated to the “Paris art”. A lot of exhibitions and even museums are now available with the works of Nolde.
To conclude, I want to state that Nolde is famous by his coloristic, vivid images. However, they were called a “degenerative art” in his life, his works were rejected, and he felt a lot of contempt in his life. Maybe such his aesthetics, with its abbreviate, non prescribed by the canons, shapes, deformed bodies, glowing contrasting paint applied with wide and flat brush strokes, hard lined pictures is not understandable for everyone. From my point of view, the purpose of the artist was not to show the covering, but the essence, things that a person can feel. Maybe I do not agree with life principles or actions of Emil Nolde (Nazism and the art for the sake of race dominating), but I admire his works and the idea of emotion through the image.