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Emil Nolde


Embrace the world of brush strokes and vibrant colors as we take an enticing journey through the life of Emil Nolde, a prominent figure in the German Expressionist movement. Nolde's palette, teeming with intense hues, and his daring, innovative style, added a unique flavor to the art world. His life, just like his paintings, was a canvas of deep passion, bold choices, and unending creativity. So, let's dive into the color-splashed world of Emil Nolde, the artist who dared to paint emotions.

More Facts

Name: Emil

Surname: Nolde

Lives & Works:

Lives in State:


Date of Birth:

Date of Death: 1956


Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Emil Nolde
Image Credit:MoMA

Who is Emil Nolde?

Emil Nolde was born in the hamlet of Nolde, Germany, on August 7th, 1867. As a young artist, he was most likely exposed to French Impressionism and Dutch art, which would later influence his own work. He became one of the first German Expressionists in Europe, joining the Die Brücke movement that included artists such as Max Pechstein and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.

Nolde was known for his distinct use of vibrant colors, often mixing traditional colors like yellow and red to create a luminous quality in his paintings. In addition to his oil painting, he also produced works in watercolor with dramatic stormscapes and brilliantly colored floral scenes. His fascination with flowers reflected his admiration for the art of Vincent van Gogh.

Despite his immense talent, Nolde was controversial due to his racist and anti-Semitic views. He was an ardent supporter of Nazi Germany; some of his works were included in the Entartete Kunst exhibition in 1937. His involvement with this regime tarnished both his reputation and career.

Early Life and Education

Nolde was raised on a farm with his three brothers, but he quickly realized that it was not a suitable life for him. Between 1884 and 1891, he studied to become a woodcarver and illustrator in Flensburg and worked in furniture factories as a young adult to gain experience. 

In 1889, Nolde gained entrance into the School of Applied Arts in Karlsruhe and eventually left his job at the Museum of Industrial and Applied Arts in St. Gallen to pursue his dream of becoming an independent artist. Although he was rejected by the Munich Academy of Fine Arts in 1898, he continued to take private painting classes and explore Paris for inspiration. 

He eventually married Danish actress Ada Vilstrup in 1902 and moved to Berlin. It was there that he met collector Gustav Schiefler and artist Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, both of whom helped advocate his work later in life. Nolde decided to take the name of his birthplace as his own from this point on, calling himself Emil Nolde.

What is Emil Nolde known for?

Emil Nolde
Image Credit:MoMA

Emil Nolde is renowned for his Expressionist paintings, particularly those done in intense colors and with a unique style that blends the abstract and the representational. His works are known for their vibrant colors, often depicting scenes of nature or landscapes enriched with an imaginary atmosphere.

Career highlights

Emil Nolde
Image Credit:MoMA

When did Emile Nolde Become Famous?

Emil Nolde’s work has received renewed attention as a painting of his entitled Blumengarten (Utenwarf) from 1917. This is housed in the Moderna Museet of Stockholm, Sweden, valued at a staggering US$4 million. However, due to its history relating to World War II, there has been a claim for its return by Otto Nathan Deutsch’s heirs, which includes a Holocaust survivor. 

It was revealed that before his death, Mr. Deutsch had been forced to flee Germany in 1938 or 1939, leaving behind his valuable artwork. The painting resurfaced at a Swiss auction in 1967 and eventually went to the Swedish Museum.

In another incident, Nolde’s Maiwiese (Maienwiese) [Meadow in May], 1915, was restituted by the Lentos Art Museum in Linz to the heirs of Dr. Otto Siegfried Julius in 2015.

Furthermore, a request for restitution was also made to the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum Foundation, Duisburg, for Nolde’s painting Buchsbaumgarten (Boxtree Garden), formerly owned by Dr. Ismar Littmann from Breslau (Wroclaw). However, the request was rejected.

As a result of these events, Nolde’s works have been at the forefront of debates regarding restitution, and his work has become an important symbol in this cause. It is now more important than ever to educate ourselves on the importance of being aware of art that has been taken or stolen as part of a larger political history. 

This is a reminder of the power of art, and how it can be used to address injustice and honor those affected by its history. It also serves as a powerful reminder that we must strive to ensure that such events do not occur in the future.

Emil Nolde List of Work

Emil Nolde
Image Credit:M8oMA

He experimented with many techniques, including oil painting, watercolor, etching, woodcut printing, lithography, and collage.

Nolde’s most iconic works include:

  • Lesende junge Frau (1906)
  • Blumengarten (ohne Figur) (1908)
  • Anna Wieds Garten (1907)
  • Steigende Wolken (1927)
  • Grosse Sonnenblumen (1928)
  • Blumen und Wolken (1933)

His most important print is The Prophet (1912), which has become an icon of 20th-century art. He achieved prices of several million US dollars at auctions conducted by the leading international auction houses, with Blumengarten (ohne Figur) being sold by Sotheby’s in London for US$3,272,673.

Emil Nolde had lasting impressions from reading the Bible in its entirety, which left an imprint on his early religious works. He shifted from a more impressionistic style to one that was more emotionally driven and colorful, with only two dimensions of representation in 1906. This shift could have been due to a near-death experience Nolde had while drinking contaminated water at the age of 42. 

His use of bold colors and the stark composition of his religious works were quite startling, even to his wife Ada. One example of this change in style is Nolde’s nine-part series, The Life of Christ, which Ada initially could not look at for more than a few moments due to its strong impact. 

Emil Nolde developed his signature Expressionist painting style through these emotionally charged pieces. Although it was not the only avenue he explored, his religious works remain some of his most powerful and captivating pieces today.

Famous Artwork by Emil Nolde

Titel: The Last Supper by Emil Nolde

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