Emil Nolde - Freude
Watercolour on Japan paper 35.3 x 24.4 cm Framed under glass. Signed 'Nolde.' lower left. - Verso mounted on card backing at corners; including the older original card backing with coloured studio traces. In fine condition.
“Freude” (Joy) is the title that Emil Nolde himself used to refer to the present sheet when it changed hands; it was purchased directly from the artist in the spring of 1955. According to the information of the Nolde archive, Nolde very likely reworked in terms of colour an early motive at a later time. It depicts two dancing young girls who have pressed themselves tightly against one another and approach directly towards us on the tips of their toes, their supple limbs outstretched. Their loose arms are raised towards one another and form a high arch above their bowed heads. Their dancing, synchronised stride is very light. A reflective blue shadow in front of the figures suggests an evocatively shimmering space. There is no further description; the composition is concentrated on the casually brushed figural motif in front of the horizontally grouped colour fields. In this context, the watercolour technique permits not only the superimposing and layering of highly diverse nuances of colour and their flowing contours, but also a differentiation in terms of the density of the colour. The almost unreal yellow-green of the foreground is thus of a light-flooded transparency, while the firmament in the upper half of the image is represented by a deep, opaque blue - velvety and dark, but nonetheless also magically luminous. A spontaneous barefoot dance on a beach in the night, where we seem to feel the damp, cool air! The unity in the movement and the friendly and open faces give expression to what the dance naively symbolises here: Joy.
In his figural motifs Nolde often presented scenes containing pairs of people, in order to characterise human relationships and emotions as well as contrasts. “Although Nolde became known, even popular, as a painter of nature and landscape, he himself attributed the highest significance to the figural image - above all, the freely invented figure” (Brigitte Reinhardt, Emil Nolde - Die Frau im Porträt, in: exh. cat. Emil Nolde, Blickkontakte, Frühe Porträts, Ulm/Amersfoort 2005, p. 62). In formal terms, the directness of expression is very often provided through the simple frontal depiction of the motifs. The dance in the form of expressive dance is also an Expressionist theme that runs through all of Nolde's oeuvre. However, in the present work, it is not a wild and visionary exaltation that is depicted, but the cheerful exuberance of youth. The watercolour sheet has a transitory aspect: it is the tender expression of the heartfelt intimacy of a shared emotional sensation. Viewers may feel themselves directly drawn into this calmer and more intimate magic of the composition.
We would like to thank Manfred Reuther of the Ada und Emil Nolde Foundation Seebüll, for his confirmatory information; the work is registered in the Nolde-Foundation Seebüll.
Acquired directly from the artist (also documented in Seebüll is an acquisition by the previous owner dated 6 April 1955); formerly private collection, Rhineland; since then in family possession