Emil Nolde

Date/place of birth

August 7, 1867, Nolde near Tondern, Denmark

Day/place of death

April 13, 1956, Seebüll, Neukirchen

Emil Nolde - Marschhof
Emil Nolde - Marschhof

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Emil Nolde biography

With his expressive flower watercolours and atmospheric landscape pictures, Emil Nolde was one of the most important representatives of Expressionism. He was famous for his pointed colouring, which lent his works a unique character.

Emil Nolde – Childhood in humble circumstances, apprenticeship as a carver and draughtsman

Emil Nolde was born Emil Hansen on 7 August 1867 in Nolde, formerly a district of today’s Danish parish of Burkal. He was the youngest of three brothers and was followed later by a younger sister. His childhood on his parents’ farm was hard work and austere, with hardly any time for artistic inclinations, but despite this, Emil Nolde decided to train as a draughtsman and carver in 1884 in the Kunstgewerbeschule in Flensburg where he was involved, amongst other things, in the restoration of the famous Brüggemann Altar of the Schleswig Cathedral. He subsequently worked for various furniture manufactories in a number of German cities including Karlsruhe, Munich and Berlin. He met the Swiss legal historian Hans Fehr during a teaching post in St. Gallen and the two maintained a long friendship. Emil Nolde first became known with his small-format, colourful drawings of the Swiss mountains.

Member of the “Brücke”, success with flower watercolours in Seebüll

Rejected by the Munich Academy, Emil Nolde took private painting lessons with Adolf Hölzel before going to Paris with the painter Emmi Walther and attending the Académie Julian. From 1902, Emil Nolde named himself after his home village, and married his first wife, the Danish actress Ada Vilstrup, in the same year. From 1906 to 1907 he was a member of the artist association “Brücke” and met Edvard Munch in Berlin. Even though his affiliation with the “Brücke” was only short-lived, it proved successful. He introduced etchings to the group and arranged contact with the important Hamburg patron Gustav Schiefler. He enjoyed a period of great success in his adopted home of Seebüll where he found the ideal conditions to create many of his famous flower watercolours. Shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, Nolde accompanied a German expedition to New Guinea and gathered many inspiring impressions on the trip from China, Japan, Ceylon, Burma and Egypt.

Painting ban despite support of the Nazi Regime

Emil Nolde believed in the superiority of Germanic art and explicitly opposed “alienation” by French and other influences; consequently he welcomed the National Socialist takeover by signing the infamous appeal of cultural workers to support Adolf Hitler. He lived out his anti-Semitic convictions, amongst other ways, in his fight against the Jewish art dealer Paul Cassirer and fellow painters such as Max Liebermann. The Führer thanked him poorly for this vassalage: In 1941, Nolde was served a painting ban as a representative of the unfavoured modern art and from then on had to earn a living with his small-format watercolours, as in his early years. The artist called these works his “unpainted pictures”. After the war, Emil Nolde was awarded prizes and honours and created numerous oil paintings and watercolours. After the death of his first wife, he married Jolanthe Erdmann, daughter of the pianist Eduard Erdmann. In 1955, he participated in the first documenta in Kassel. 

Emil Nolde died on 13 April 1956 in Seebüll.

© Kunsthaus Lempertz

Emil Nolde Prices

Emil NoldeMarschhof€1.368.500
Emil NoldeEvening Marsh Landscape (Seebüll)€384.000
Emil NoldeAbendlandschaft mit Mühle€384.000
Emil NoldeTosendes Meer€275.000
Emil NoldeMarschlandschaft mit roten Wolken, Landschaft um Utenwarf€252.000
Emil NoldeMarschlandschaft€226.100

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