Station: [8] Emil Nolde: „North Frisian Landscape with Farm“ (n.d.)

Emil Nolde’s watercolour North Frisian Landscape with Farm entered the collection of Museum Kunst der Westküste early on. It is part of the increasing holdings of works by German Expressionists.

Nolde is without doubt one of the most controversial German artists of the twentieth century. His ambivalent role during the Nazi era is currently the subject of intense debate. On the one hand, he was considered a “degenerate artist”, yet on the other, he was a staunch party member. The artist was born in Nolde, a small village in what was then North Schleswig and always remained closely connected to his native land between the two seas.

Of central importance to his work is the watercolour technique which he would gradually perfect. The watercolours are closely linked to his oil paintings.

Like most of those works on paper, Nolde neither entitled nor dated the watercolour shown here. Still, there are clues which allow us to locate it in the North Frisian landscape. Based on the typical shape of the red-coloured house with thatched roof, we can tell it is a North Frisian farmhouse lying embedded in the marsh landscape. An imposing sky glowing in purple, blue and yellow hues rises above it. Doesn’t the house seem to be ducking away under the colourful elemental force of nature? The yellow and purple, in particular, intensify one another, because they are complementary colours, that is opposite each other on the colour wheel. The same is true of red and green, colours Nolde used frequently as well.

With just a few brushstrokes, the artist conjured an impressive weather situation – and a very special atmosphere. Can you see how the watercolours are bleeding into one another? In the purple field you can make out darker areas. Nolde created these by applying multiple thin layers of paint, each one of which he would let dry first. When painting with watercolours — especially when using a lot of water — it is obviously not possible to control every single detail of the creative process. Time and again, the artist had to react to new colour gradients and shifting shapes. Nolde very much enjoyed working like this.