Emil Nolde was one of the first artists of the expressionist movement and member of the original expressionist groups. Born 7th August 1867 in Nolde, Denmark, he came from a traditional protestant farming background, one which he would later detach himself from in his path to becoming a major contributor to the expressionist movement. Having spent time working in furniture factories and training to become an illustrator and a carver, he gained entrance to the school of Applied Arts in Karlsruhe in 1889. Nolde also spent time as a drawing instructor at the Industrie-und Gewerbemuseum in St Gallen, Switzerland, where he created his first successful body of work, which would finance him for his further training. In 1898, having been rejected from the Munich Academy of Fine Arts, he spent three years in Paris at the Academie Julian, taking private art classes where he familiarized himself with the contemporary impressionist scene that was growing in popularity in Europe.
Nolde truly came into his own with his artwork during his involvement with the impressionist Avant Garde groups of the early 20th century. He became a member of Die Brucke,a revolutionary art group formed in Dresden by four young architecture students; Fritz Bleyl, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Hekel and Karl Schmidt Rottluff. Although Nolde only remained a member of Die Brucke for a year, it had a huge impact on his work overall, igniting primitive, exotic themes in his pieces. Die Brucke (The Bridge) wanted to create a link between past and present in art e.g through reviving woodcuts as well as creating a new way of printing such as the lineout technique. Their references to the past were often counteracted with extreme modernist styles .
Nolde then joined another expressionist group, Die Blaue Reiter, in 1911 where his success continued to grow. After being invited on a German expedition to New Guinea, Nolde’s work again featured heavily primitive and sensual themes. As well as this, Nolde’s works featured many references to the Bible, but not in the classical manner. His scenes were painted in strong, expressionist styles with striking colours and exaggerated forms. This aspect of impressionism was very important to him.He wrote ‘Every colour holds within it a soul, which makes me happy or repels me, which acts as a human stimulus.’
Although Nolde was finding great success, his artistic life was not without its downfalls. Nolde was as supporter of the Nazi Party due to his belief that impressionism was solely a Germanic style. However he found himself an outcast of the party, as the Nazi’s believed that modernism was degenerate art; Nolde was therefore condemned by the Nazi’s and was not allowed to paint after 1941. This resulted in a series of watercolours that he called his ‘unpainted pictures’. After World War II, Nolde received the German Order of Merit, and was once again held in high esteem in Germany.
Running until the 10th June 2018, a series of Nolde’s works will be available to view in the National Gallery of Ireland in the new Exhibition ‘ Emil Nolde/ Colour is Life’. It will truly showcase his bold paintings and prints with all works on loan from the Noble Foundation Seebull, Germany. A series of lectures and talks will also accompany the exhibition. Student tickets are now available at €5.
Holly Lloyd – Arts & Events Editor