fine art contemporary

Emil Nolde - Biography

1867 Nolde - 1956 Seebüll

Emil Nolde was a leading expressionist and is considered one of the greatest watercolour painters of the 20th century. He was born Emil Hansen in 1867, near the village of Nolde in Burkal, then the part of the Prussian Province of Schleswig-Holstein (now Jutland, Denmark). Nolde received Danish citizenship, which he retained for the rest of his life, when the majority of South Jutland joined Denmark in a 1920 referendum. He nonetheless always felt connected to his parents’ Frisian and Silesian roots. From 1884 to 1888, he studied to become a wood carver and draftsman at the Arts and Crafts School in Flensburg, Germany, and worked in various furniture factories. In 1892 the artist was employed as a teacher of industrial and ornamental drawing at the Industrial Museum (German: Gewerbemuseum) in St. Gallen, where he taught until 1897-1898. His first success, small coloured drawings of Swiss mountains printed as postcards, reaffirmed his decision to become a painter. Having been rejected by the Munich Academy, he took painting at the Adolf Hölzl private school in Dachau. Nolde then went to Paris to continue his art studies at the Académie Julian in 1899. From 1903 on, Nolde and his wife Ada’s primary summer residence was on Alsen Island, while in winter he stayed mainly in Berlin. In 1906 and 1907, he was a member of the German expressionist artists' group “The Bridge“ (German: “Brücke”), and became a member of the Berlin Secession in 1909. The exclusion of expressionistic works of art from a 1910 exhibition of the Berlin Secession led to a schism and the formation of the “New Secession” by Nolde and other marginalized artists. The artist spent most of the First World War in Denmark, and remained exempt from German military service thanks to his citizenship.

In 1926, Nolde and Ada acquired a vacant warft[1], which they named Seebüll, and built upon it a home and studio with a splendid garden. Though Emil Nolde saw himself as a essentially German artist, his paintings were shown at the 1937 Munich exhibition entitled “Degenerate Art“, and many were confiscated and destroyed. From 1938 to 1945, he painted his so-called "Unpainted Pictures", easy-to-hide small-format watercolours, which were discovered only after his death. In 1944, his Berlin apartment was destroyed by bombs. Only after 1945 did the artist receive a number of awards and honors for his outstanding accomplishments. Emil Nolde died in Seebüll in 1956. His works were posthumously shown at the documenta II and III art exhibitions in Kassel.


[1] An artificial dwelling hill (also known as terp or warft) is a mound created to provide safe ground during storm surges and river floods. These hills can be found in the marshlands of northwestern Germany, Halligen on North Sea Islands as well as Netherlands and southwest Denmark.



Evening mood at the sea around 1930
Afternoon by the water around 1930/1935