Emil Nolde - Rotes Meer (Sonnenuntergang und schwarzer Dampfer)
Rotes Meer (Sonnenuntergang und schwarzer Dampfer)
Watercolour on Japan paper 12.3 x 19.2 cm Signed 'Nolde' in black ink lower left. - In fine condition with fresh colours.
Six extraordinary watercolours by Emil Nolde which we are able to offer at the Evening Sale and Day Sale auctions show the breadth of this field of creativity that was so important for him.
Two floral still lifes represent the most famous genre of the artist's watercolour paintings: in countless variations and with an unrelenting passion, he masterfully transposed the power of nature's colours, which he constantly kept before his eyes with his famous garden. "Rote Astern in dunkelblauer Vase" (lot 6) presents itself in the form of a classic floral still life filling the picture plane. Above the foliage and the blue-and-violet vase, whose colours also extend out into the background, he brings out the luminous coloration of the red and yellow asters to their full advantage.
By contrast Nolde has selected a more unusual structure for his picture "Dahlien und Blattpflanze" (lot 19), which is vaguely reminiscent of a botanical identification chart, although the play of soft-grey shadows in the background renders it less formal. The protagonist in this image is the leafy branch, which is able to unfold its full ornamental beauty and is accompanied by the intense tones of the yellow and reddish-violet blooms arranged next to it.
"Rotes Meer (Sonnenuntergang und schwarzer Dampfer)" (lot 18) is to be included among the so-called "Ungemalte Bilder", the "unpainted pictures" which mark a special chapter in Nolde's late work. They were created between 1938 and 1945, after the artist had been denounced as "degenerate" and, from 1941, also prohibited from practising his profession, although he was not officially prohibited from painting. Contrary to legend they were not painted in secret, and they were not yet to be assessed in terms of a cohesive series of works within their contemporary context. Instead, they followed the sketches for pictures that Nolde had already created in preparation for his paintings earlier in his career. During this period, however, his small-format watercolours did achieve an extraordinary, independent quality and an intense visual statement. Within the smallest of spaces, Nolde has also kindled a veritable blaze of colours coupled with a strongly abstract depiction of his subject matter in "Rotes Meer". Intermingled bands of orange, red and violet allow us to intuit more than to recognise this scene consisting of water, shoreline and sky; only the black silhouette of the steamboat, with its massive cloud of smoke, stands out in terms of a narrative element.
Finally, three remarkable portrait images illustrate the artist's profound interest in the people he came across - be it in his German-Danish homeland or during his travels. In "Bauernsohn" (lot 34) Nolde has depicted a young man whose presence fills the picture plane and who is situated within a subtle play of light and shadow carried out in shades of blue: his reflectively lowered gaze and his face half covered in shadow call to mind a spontaneously captured snapshot. "Russisches Mädchen" (Auction 1188 Modern Art Day Sale, lot 169) represents a member of Russia's rural populace, whom he met while travelling with the Trans-Siberian Railway in October 1913, as a full-length, almost entirely shrouded figure who seems to be bound firmly into the cold, white landscape of Siberia. His depiction of a man (lot 33) is strongly reminiscent of his portraits of the natives from the exotic islands of the South Pacific whom he met in 1914 - later on in the course of that same journey, which spanned half the world. Nonetheless, this expressive "Männerkopf" presented en face is to be placed in a later, still-unknown context.
With a photo-certificate by Manfred Reuther, Klockries, dated 4 August 2021. The work is registered and documented in his archive under number "Nolde A - 180/2020".
Private possession, North Rhine-Westphalia