Emil Nolde 1867 - 1956 PDF Print E-mail

Emil Nolde 1867 - 1956


1867 – Born Emil Hansen in large religious peasant family in German village of Nolde near Danish border in

           Schleswig-Holstein. Absorbs Protestant catechism at school and works in the fields as a child. Learns low-Danish in

            fields, high-German in school, high-Danish in church and low-German for business. His catechism book illustrations

            are his first experience of art.

1884-91 – Apprenticed in wood-carving and cabinet-making in School in Flensburg. After graduation will work as wood

              carver in Karlsruhe, Munich and Berlin where he takes classes at the school of applied arts and crafts.

1892-97 – Teaches industrial design at school for decorative arts in Saint Galen, Switzerland. Visits Milan, Vienna and

Munich. Develops passion for mountain-climbing that inspires his early watercolors of famous peaks rendered as grotesque heads which prove to be a great commercial success after their publication in Jugend.

1898-99 – Returns to Munich where he continues his studies in private art school after being refused admission at

academy directed by Franz Stuck. Studies modern and old masters in Munich museums. In 1899 does nature studies in Dachau in company of colorist and future abstract painter Adolf Holzer.

1899-1900 – First trip to Paris in company of young Hamburg painter Emmi Wather. Studies at the Julian academy and

the Louvre where he is most impressed by Rembrandt’s Pilgrims at Emmaus. Visits art exhibition of Paris World’s Fair. Sees for the first time works by the French Impressionists, Gauguin and Signac.

1900-01 – Settles in Copenhagen. Studies with Christian Zartman one of the great modern Danish colorists. Visits painters

Hammershoi and Johansen. Meets young Danish actress and musician Ada Vilstrup. Paints his first mythical and savage creatures in the summer in small fishing village in Jutland.

1902 -  Marries Ada. The couple settle in Berlin. Ada seriously ill with tuberculosis is hospitalized. She will spend many months

            in sanatoria in the next few years. Begins using the name of his native village (Nolde) as his own.

1903 – Rents house in Guderup south coast of Alsen island in the Baltic where he will spend every summer until 1916.

           Builds wooden studio on the beach. Exhibits in Kiel (Schleswig-Holstein art association shows.)

1905 – Trip to Italy: Taormina, Ischia, financed by first important collector Hans Fehr. Declares Italy sterile and uninspiring for

            his art.  Visits Gauguin exhibition in Weimar. Executes first prints, the Phantasien.

1906 – Impressed by his color compositions the artists of die Brücke (the Bridge) invite him to join the group in Dresden.          

Begins showing with them and Ada takes over his public relations with the artists and patrons. She visits Karl Ernst

Osthaus founder of the Folkwang museum in Hansen one of the most progressive museum directors in Germany.

He buys his first Nolde painting and becomes enthusiastic over the Brücke activities. Nolde meets another important

couple of collectors the lawyer Gustav Schiefler and his wife Luise who buy his prints. Invites the Brücke painter

Schmidt-Rottluff to paint with him in Alsen. He will introduce Nolde to wood block prints. Exhibits single harvest

painting in Berlin Secession (with Corinth, Slevogt, Leistikow and Liebermann, the modern German painters of the

1890’s.) It is hung “above door to the toilets.” All his other entries are reused by jury. First rifts between Nolde and

the other members of die Brücke. He complains they don’t look after his own art well enough and remain too closed

to international modern art currents. Ada, more conciliatory, continues recruiting patrons for die Brücke and remains

close to administrator and treasurer of the group the painter Heckel.

1907 – Nolde spends several months in Dresden in company of the Brücke painters Heckel, Pechtein, Kirchner. Affirmation

            of Nolde’s expressionist style in the summer flower paintings  executed in his garden in Alsen. New Hamburg

   patrons: art historian Rosa Schapire and lawyer’s wife Martha Rauert.  Nolde writes to Heckel to announce he is

   leaving die Brücke.  Meets famous Norwegian painter Evdard Munch in Berlin. Visits his studio where frieze destined

   for Max Reinhardt stage décor will have great influence on his late marine paintings. Paul Cassirer gallery shows 10

   of his pictures in Berlin.

1908 – Invited to be member of Secession. Experiments with more abstract watercolor style incorporating rain and snow

            into his paint. Show in and trip to Stockholm. Impressed by drawings of dead mad artist  Ernst Josephson.

1909 – Studies further 19 Josephson drawings shown in Berlin, becoming obsessively identified with the dead artist and

most particularly his religious works. Turns against older generation in Berlin Secession notably director Liebermann. In village of Ruttebüll in Ansen paints in trance-like state his first series of religious works.

1910 – Successful exhibitions in Hamburg, Essen and Iena with good sales. Founding of the New Secession in Berlin by

younger members. Nolde does not formally join though he will show work at their exhibitions until 1912. His new religious paintings are rejected by jury of the old Secession. Open and personal rift with Max Liebermann to whom Nolde addresses an offensive open letter published in Kunst und Küstler. With 40 votes against 2 Nolde is formally excluded from Secession. In 1934 Nolde will use this episode as proof of his antipathy for Jewish art in order to placate Nazi criticism of his own work. Paints his series of Berlin night life scenes. Frequents Max Reinhardt productions at Deutches theater.






1911 – Trip to Brussels and visit to famous Belgian Symbolist painter James Ensor in Ostende. Stopping in Amsterdam

admires Rembrandt, Hals and van Gogh. Frequents ethnological museum in Berlin where he sketches Oceanian, African and Pre-Colombian sculpture and masks. Meets Kandinsky and Franz Marc at New Secession winter exhibition. The Brücke painters break with New Secession.

1912 – Finishes 9-panel polyptych of Life of Christ. Shows in Cologne Sonderbund exhibition, first great international

modern art show in Germany with an important Expressionist section. Attacks “enemies of German art” including

dealer Paul Cassirer and art historian Julius Meier Graffe. Participates in 2nd Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) exhibition in Munich, avant garde group founded by Kandinsky. First large solo exhibition at Neue Kunstsalon in Munich with published catalog. Criticized for painting like a child, a negro or a madman.

1913 – Halle museum buys Last Supper provoking protests of Wilhelm von Bode director of Berlin museums. Nolde

invited by Reich colonial office to participate in medical expedition to German colony of New Guinea. Leaves in October with Ada from Berlin by train to Moscow and Siberia and then by boat to Japan, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, arriving in New Guinea in November. Visits islands of German Oceania.

1914 – Visits more islands. Admires native life and culture, criticizes colonial behavior. Return to Germany via Suez and

            Italy in the autumn.

1916 – Leaves Alsen island.

1917 – Destroys 15 paintings including self portrait ispired by Van Gogh.

1918 – Shows in Hanover and Munich. Refuses post of professor in Karlsruhe academy.

1919 – Named member of revolutionary art council founded by German architects (Gropius) in Berlin along with his old

  Brücke colleagues.

1920 – Inauguration of Nolde room in Berlin National Gallery. Schleswig-Holstein joins Denmark by referendum.

   Nolde acquires Danish nationality though he joins local association for propagation of German culture.

1921 -  Visits Spain (Madrid, Granada.) His religious paintings exhibited in Lübeck church.

1923 – Receives visit of Swiss painter Paul Klee.

1924 – Trip to Italy and Vienna.

1927 – Great retrospective for his 60th birthday in Rudolf Probst gallery in Dresden. Builds new house and garden in

            Seebüll on Danish border near the North sea.

1928 – First sunflower paintings.

1931 – Made member of Prussian academy of art in Berlin. Publication of first volume of his autobiography (1867-1902.)

1933 – Hitler comes to power. Nolde at first tolerated by Alfred Rosenberg and Joseph Goebbels who approve of folk art

and “northern” expressionism. The Noldes approve of Hitler. However Max von Shilling president of academy requests Nolde’s resignation. Nolde refuses. Exhibitions featuring his works are cancelled.

1934 – Signs manifesto in favor of new regime along 36 other artists. Joins new Nazi art association of Schleswig-

            Holstein. Publication of second volume of his autobiography (1902-13.)

1935 – Operated for stomach cancer.

1936 – Finishes 3rd volume of autobiography (1913-18) which, however, cannot be published.

1937 – Nazi campaign against “degenerate art.” 48 Paintings by Nolde shown in infamous Munich exhibition of

            degenerate art. 1052 of his works are confiscated in German museums.

1938 – Deeply hurt, Nolde writes to Goebbels to protest his good faith and his constant defense of German art against

            “foreign elements” and the intrigues of the Cassirer and Liebermann (both Jewish) era.

1939 – Several of his works are among the 5000 burned in central firehouse of Berlin. The Sprengels a wealthy couple of

            patrons who will support him through the war period visit his studio for the first time.

1941 – The Reich chamber of culture officially notifies him that he is to stop painting. Secretly begins series of small

            watercolors the “non-painted images” until the end of the war.

1942 – Visit to Vienna where local Reich representative Sirach hopes to compete in the cultural sphere with Berlin. Sirach

             does not succeed in lifting ban on his art. Returns to Seebüll which he will not leave until the end of the war.

1944 – Bombing of his Berlin apartment, destruction of many of his works and collection of other artists.

1946 – Death of Ada.

1947 – Finishes 4th volume of his autobiography (1919-46.)

1948 – Marries 26 year old Jolanthe Erdmann daughter of pianist friend.

1951 – Stops oil painting after breaking his wrist.

1956 – Dies in Seebüll and is buried in garden next to Ada.


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