Emil Nolde - Tosendes Meer
Watercolour on Japan paper 33.5 x 45.5 cm Framed under glass. Signed 'Nolde' in pen and black ink lower right. - In very fine condition with fresh colours.
The chromatic and formal force of Nolde's watercolour “Tosendes Meer” reminds us of the high artistic status that seascapes possessed within his oeuvre. The pictures done in oils - painted in exhilaration, as if in ecstasy - were sometimes created one after the other in large painted series, particularly in 1930, on the occasion of his stay on Sylt (see “Meer” A - F, Urban 1100-1105; of which only 4 pictures are preserved today, including “Meer B” in the Tate Gallery and “Meer E” in the Nolde-Stiftung). After the war, in 1947, paintings of comparable formats followed, one of which belonged to Jolanthe Nolde and was exhibited at the Heidelberger Kunstverein in 1958, together with the present watercolour (see Urban 1290 and Urban 1291-1292, “Meer” I-III). Nolde's highly expressive works on paper accompanied his paintings; the medium of the watercolour seemed particularly adequate for this purpose.
The extent to which this theme captivated the artist as an experience is shown by the staccato-like observations “Am Westmeer”, from his stay on Sylt in the summer and autumn of 1930: “It was as if the open air, the salty taste, the roaring waves spurred me on and delighted me. […] The waves, their rumbling, the clouds before and above me, the beach, the dunes, the grey grass: it was all mine. […] Like a drunk I walked along the beach for hours or through the liquid sand of the dunes, screaming my songs where it was secluded, screaming with the seagulls, which also scream like that. […] I barely understood everything and accepted it, calmly moved - like my colours were, too - whether I was painting the greyish green dunes, the roaring sea or the people.” (Emil Nolde, Mein Leben, Cologne, 1976, p. 377). His experience of nature is one perceived with all the senses and this sensory, also acoustic, aspect finds itself realised with complete mastery in his work.
The intensity and fresh colours of the medium are unusually finely preserved and are particularly pleasing in the present composition: the colours smoulder and glow, we experience the movement of deep, submerged currents in stark and rhythmic contrasts of light and dark as well as transparent layers of colour, and we experience the waves, with their explosively foaming spray, as a modulated, dazzling white that also incorporates the painting's support - a fibrous, laid Japan paper. The sheet's expressivity is not least the result of the confidence and freedom with which Nolde has instinctively developed the motif, so to speak, “à rebours”: the fluid painterly movement underscores the primal force of the troubled masses of water flowing towards us from right to left, rising up steeply into a shimmering, central breaker.
With a photo-certificate by Manfred Reuther, Klockries, dated 12 October 2020.
The work is registered and documented in his archive under number "Nolde A - 184/2020".
We would like to thank Christian Ring, Stiftung Seebüll Ada und Emil Nolde, for additional information.
Jolanthe Nolde, geb. Erdmann (1921-2010), estate; since then in family possession
Cf. Emil Nolde, Am Westmeer 1930, in: Emil Nolde. Mein Leben, Cologne 1976, p. 376-379, and Martin Urban, Nachwort, ibid. p. 418
Heidelberg 1958 (Kunstverein), Emil Nolde. Gemälde - Aquarelle - Graphik. Eine Privat-Sammlung, cat. no. 35 ("Tosendes Meer")