“Pictures are spiritual beings. The soul of the painter lives within them.”
It has been said that the German expressionist artist Emil Nolde had read only one book during his life and that being the Bible during his childhood under the influence of his protestant peasant parents. An influence that regulated education secondary to that of inspiration for the artist.
And about which Nolde has said “What an artist learns matters little. What he himself discovers has a real worth for him, and gives him the necessary incitement to work.”
Born as Emil Hansen, he adopted the name Nolde from the village adjacent to his parent’s farm in his mid-thirties after moving to Berlin in 1902.
As a child Nolde, unlike his siblings, drew and painted whenever he could and at the age of 17 he studied to become a carver and illustrator and as a young adult worked in furniture factories whilst painting and drawing in his spare time. The proceeds from a series of postcards he produced in his early thirties gave him the financial security to become an independent artist.
Working with oil paint, watercolors and printmaking Nolde’s depictions of urban nightlife, biblical scenes, flower motifs, and landscapes along with the primitivism of his exotic figures and masks, inspired by a visit to the South Seas, are considered to be amongst the best of German Expressionism.
Although being a member of the Nazi party from the early 1920’s, Nolde was declared to be a degenerate artist in 1937 and four years later banned him from making any art at all. During this prohibition Nolde made some 1300 watercolors in secret many of which became the basis for his later works made after the Second World War.
For as he has said “Art is exalted above religion and race. Not a single solitary soul these days believes in the religions of the Assyrians, the Egyptians and the Greeks... Only their art, whenever it was beautiful, stands proud and exalted, rising above all time.”
The exhibition Nolde in Hamburg is currently on show at The Hamburger Kunsthalle until the 10th of February 2016.