Emile Nolde (Hansen)

1867 – 1956



Visible reality as starting point. Increasingly spread his paint over the surface like a carpet in search for greater simplicity of expression. Tools of impressionism with goal of ‘transforming nature by infusing it with one’s own mind and spirit’

1908 took up finger painting again since his rejection of impressionism in 1903.



Born 7 August in Nolde, western part of north Schleswig, on a farm in the family for nine generations, harsh elements. Reared with a simple fundamentalist piety. As a child he heard the cries of animals as colors.


Sauermann school of carving in Flensburg until 1888. It was a furniture factory.


Went to Karlsruhe and worked as a furniture carver. Attended the Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Arts and Crafts)


Moved to Berlin to work as a design draughtsman in a furniture factory. Lots of drawing in the museums. Liked Egyptian and Assyrian art. No knowledge of contemporary art.


Until 98: Teacher at the Kunstgewerbeschule or Gewerbemuseum at St. Gall, Switzerland. Taught ornamental draughtsman ship. Discovered contemporary painting: Bocklin and Ferdinand Hodler. Mountain walks. Postcards of great peaks as petrified heads sold and he quit his teaching post.


Application to Stuck’s class in Munich (where Kandinsky and Klee were) turned down. Entered Fehr’s school and went to the studio of  Adolf Hoelzel in Dachau


Visited Paris for nine months.


Summer: returned to his homeland. Following years in Copenhagen and various places in Denmark and Schleswig, and a short period in Berlin.


Took the name Nolde


Settled on the island of Alsen.

“I had innumerable visions at this time; wherever I looked, Nature was alive, the sky, the clouds, on every stone and among the branches of the trees, everywhere my creatures stirred and lived their still or wild, lively lives, arousing my excitement and crying out to be painted.”

Spent summers from this year forward on the island of Alsen.


Becomes well acquainted with Munch, Gauguin and van Gogh. Use of brilliant colours and spontaneous brushwork.

Applied paint with brush, fingers and scraps of card


visited Italy


Member of the Brucke, which had formed the year before, for a year and a half participating in the exhibitions of 1906 and 1907. Invited to join so he enthusiastically quit his isolation. Taught surface etching. (p. 59 The Expressionists) He learned woodcut and lithography. But felt the Brucke failed to become an alliance of all good young artists.

Got to know Karl Ernst Osthaus, founder of the Folkwang-Museum. In Hamburg he gained the friendship and patronage of the provincial Chief Justice, Gustav Schiefler, connected with Munch and the Brucke, and who later catalogued the graphics of Munch, Kirchner and Nolde.

Exhibited at the Berlin Secession (Harvest Day of 1904). Beginning to gain recognition.


tried to form a new group in which he would recruit Christian Rohlfs, Pierre Roy, Munch, Matisse, Beckmann, and Schmidt-Rottluff. Unsuccessful

had a severe illness. Religious painting. First: The Last Supper


Expelled from the Berlin Secession. They rejected his Pentecost. Provoked attacks from Nolde, prolonged quarrel, expulsion. Co founded Neue Secession.

That summer he worked in the port of Hamburg

Winter – paintings of restaurants, cabarets and cafes, night life.


Attempted, unsuccessfully to take on leadership of the Neue Secession.

1911 and 1912 – nine part Life of Christ. Art of primitive peoples significant. Brought to his attention in Dresden, but now very concerned with fundamental sensations

Started work on a book Kunstausserungen deer Naturbolker (Artistic expressions of primitive peoples) “The absolute originality, the intense, often grotesque expression of force and life in the very simplest form, that may well be what gives us pleasure in these aboriginal works’


The museum in Halle bought The Last Supper. Disagreements among the museum’s directors. Folkwang Museum in Hagen showed The Life of Christ, but the plan to do so at the Brussels International Exhibition was frustrated by ecclesiastical opposition. Nolde becomes increasingly withdrawn and from 13 onwards was hardly prepared to take part in exhibitions..


Took part in an Imperial Colonial Office expedition to New Guinea. Returned shortly after the war broke out.


Withdrew to homeland, western Schlewig. Simple life of relaxation and security. Developed a particular thematic and formal framework imbued with peaceful radiance and stability. Avoided contact with contemporary art.


Now summers spent in Utewarf moving forward


visited England, Spain and France


Moved to Seebull.

60th birthday: first major exhibition of his work.


Member of the Prussian Academyof Arts


1052 works confiscated


Forbidden to paint


Died 13 April at Seebull



1.  The Expressionists. Wolf-Dieter Dube, trans by Mary Whittall. Thames and Hudson, 1972.