- Emil Nolde
- Meer bei Alsen (Sea off Alsen)
- signed Emil Nolde (lower right)
- oil on canvas
- 72.5 by 88cm.
- 28 1/2 by 34 5/8 in.
Hans Peters, Dangast
Veit Vogel, Munich
Walter Bornheim, Munich
Acquired from the above by the father of the present owner in 1962
Stuttgart, Württembergischer Kunstverein & Seebüll, Stiftung Ada und Emil Nolde, Emil Nolde, 1987-88, no. 23
Frankfurt, Städel Museum & Humlebæk, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Emil Nolde. Retrospektive, 2014, no. 21, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Paris, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Keys to a Passion, 2015, no. 44, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
The artist’s handlist, 1930, listed as ‘1910 Meer bei Alsen’
Martin Urban, Emil Nolde, Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil-Paintings, London, 1987, vol. I, no. 380, illustrated p. 330
Commenting on the artist's fascination with the sea and clouds, Max Sauerlandt notes: 'Nolde understands the sea like no other painter before him. He sees it not from the beach or from the boat but as it exists in itself... eternally in motion, ever changing, living out its life in and for itself: a divine, self-consuming, primal force that, in its untrammelled freedom, has existed unchanged since the very first day of creation... He has painted the sea in all its permutations, but above all in stormy agitation, its heavy swell transformed into white breakers as it retreats upon itself, beneath heavy, threatening clouds, behind which the autumnal evening sky bleeds in tones of red and deepest orange' (M. Sauerlandt, Emil Nolde, Munich, 1921, pp. 49-50).
Wherever he settled, whether in Alsen on the Baltic or later in Utenwarf and Seebüll on the North Sea coast, Nolde was rarely out of sight or sound of the sea, which occupied an important place both in his imagination and in his work. His first studio, erected during the summer months spent on the island of Alsen from 1903 onwards, was a wooden hut on the very edge of the beach, so that he could observe the sea closely at any time of the day in all its moods. The artist states: 'Often, I stood at the window looking out at the sea for hours. There was nothing except water and sky. There was complete silence except for the occasional hushed ripple of the waves against the stones of the beach' (quoted in Werner Haftmann, Emil Nolde, Cologne, 1978, p. 70, translated from German).
In the present work the raw energy that is captured by Nolde’s rapid brushwork displays not only the vitality of the nature he depicts but the virulence with which he responds to it. As Nolde stated: 'I have always been fascinated by everything primeval and archaic. The wide, tempestuous sea is still in its original state; the wind, the sun, even the starry sky are virtually the same today as they were fifty thousand years ago' (quoted in Emil Nolde. Retrospektive (exhibition catalogue), Städel Museum, Frankfurt, 2014, pp. 90-91). The dense richness of his palette and idiosyncratic approach were particularly influential to his fellow members of the Brücke. The passionate acceptance of his works by those younger artists such as Kirchner, Schmidt-Rottluff and Heckel led them to assimilate some of his exuberant style into their own work. Although his personal association with the Brücke had ended a couple of years before Meer bei Alsen was painted, it is through such works that Nolde is celebrated as one of the pioneers of Expressionism.