Monday, March 9, 2015

Emil Nolde's Style Trumped NSDAP Loyalty

I include the tag "Political art" for this post about Expressionist artist Emil Nolde (1867-1956) not because his art featured political subjects, but because his political position failed to overcome Nazi opposition to "degenerate" (modernist) art.

He was born Emil Hansen in the the border area of Germany and Denmark, later changing his last name to that of the town near where he was born. Nolde got a late start in painting, seeking training when in his early 30s. He was a modernist, first influenced by Impressionism, but gave that style up to become an expressionist. In the early twentieth century he was associated with Die Brücke and then with Der Blaue Reiter, key groups in early 1900s German Expressionism.

Nolde's Wikipedia entry is here, and another fairly long account of his career can be found here. For Nolde's relationship to the Nazi party and its dealings with his art, a useful source is this book.

It seems that Nolde was a Nazi party member -- but of the Danish, not the German one. He was a strong supporter of Hitler, but the regime favored völkisch art (traditional in technique, featuring Nordic, countryside and heroic subjects, among others). Expressionism of Nolde's kind fell into what was by the late 1930s considered "degenerate" art by Hitler's regime, and a number of his paintings were pulled from state galleries and some included in a exhibit of modernist art considered worthy of scorn. So his Nazi affiliations well as support by some high in the party hierarchy were not enough to counteract his style of painting in the earlier years of his career. He retreated to the land of his birth and worked largely in watercolor during the late 30s and the war years.


Printemps dans la chambere (Springtime in the Room) - 1904
This was painted not long after his marriage, so the subject might be his wife. The style is Impressionist, but with a hint of Fauve coloring.

Dance Around the Golden Calf - 1910
By 1910, Nolde was in full expressionist mode.

Spectators at the Cabaret - 1911

Crucifixion - 1912
He came from a religious background and painted some religious subjects such as the crucifixion of Christ.


Verlorenes Paradies (Paradise Lost) - 1921
Adam seem miffed regarding Eve.

Frauenkopf mit roten Haar (Woman with Red Hair) - 1925

The Sea at Dusk
I have no date for this, though I think it might be a watercolor from the years when Nolde was in disfavor and spent most of his time in Seebüll, near the Danish border.

NOTE: The NSDAP in the title of this post refers to the National Socialist German Worker's Party, the German language version being commonly abbreviated to "Nazi." The term "national socialist" was intended to distinguish the party from international socialism, the leading generic leftist concept of 1920.

1 comment:

Hels said...

I am no Nolde fan, but your first painting is rather special - Impressionist style with Fauvist colouring. Perhaps in 1904, he wasn't angry or feeling oppressed yet.