Emil Nolde (1867, Nolde, Germany- Seebüll, Germany) was born Emil Hansen in the North Schleswig village of Nolde in Germany; the area later became part of Denmark. He was apprenticed at a furniture factory in Fiensburg and taught at the Museum of Industrial Arts on St. Gall, Switzerland from 1892 through 1898.
He did not change his name until he married Ada Vilstrup at the age of 34, in 1902. He identified himself with the bleak environment of north Germany, acquiring an outer taciturnity and an inner turbulence. As a peasant lad, he was given to hallucinations and gripped by a powerful primitive religious fervor, and he painted those dreams with vehemence and crash of color. His temperament was essentially that of a solitary painter; he refrained from committing himself to any groups or associations.
Nolde applied paint with a typical looseness. He believed spontaneity to be indispensable for creativity, asserting that "the quicker a painting is done, the better it is." Like many expressionists, he particularly valued the emotive power of color, which also assumed a symbolic quality. Many German critics have spoken of Nolde as the "pioneer of a national German art."
In 1933, Nolde was the only major German expressionist to join the Nazi Party. The Nazis soon called him a 'degenerate' modern artist and stripped his works from German museums. In 1941 he was forbidden to sell his art or even to paint. He retreated from Berlin to his summer home in Seebull, not far from his birthplace on the North Sea Coast but he did not stop painting. Lifelong friends looked after the Noldes; local merchants accepted paintings in exchange for food. Because he feared the stench of turpentine, he gave up oils and instead painted some 1300 watercolors on small pieces of Japanese rice paper. He hoped someday to use them as bases for oil paintings. Nolde died in 1956 in Seebull.
Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.
Source: Sources: Time Magazine, July 28, 1961 and March 17, 1967; An Invitation to See, Catalogue of Museum of Modern Art; Art & Antiques, March 1999; www.artnet.com; The Oxford Companion to Art, edited by Harold Osborne.
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