The present work is an outstanding example of Nolde’s immersion into the world of color in his attempt to capture the essence of the natural world. He developed an open brushwork, free of any harsh outlines, to let the pigments expand into fields of colors, almost like the blossoms themselves. He would take as a starting point easily identified localities or close-ups of flowers, rather than embarking on large scale panoramic views.
The artist's engagement with this particular subject matter also demonstrates Nolde's interest in the work of Vincent van Gogh, particularly in one of his most iconic subject matters—still-lives of flowers. During the 1920s and early 1930s Nolde visited several exhibitions of the Dutch artist's work; which included among others, the major van Gogh retrospective at the Galerie Paul Cassirer in Berlin in 1928. The fervent dedication to expression and symbolic use of color exhibited in van Gogh's works matched Nolde's own deeply held ideology. The artist wrote: "I loved the music of colours... Yellow can depict happiness and also pain. Red can mean fire, blood or roses; blue can mean silver, the sky or a storm, each colour has a soul of its own."2
The culmination of these theories can be found in his flower paintings and watercolors such as the present work: "The glowing colors of the flowers and the purity of the colors—I loved it all. I loved the flowers in their destiny: shooting up, blossoming, bending, fading, thrown into a ditch. A human destiny is not always so fine."3 As a keen observer of his surroundings and deeply immersed in nature, Nolde was one of the few painters of his time to translate flowers into a powerful painterly expression in such a persuasive and compelling way.
1. M. Reuther in Emil Nolde (exhibition catalogue), Whitechapel Gallery, London 1996, p. 119
2. Martin Urban, Emil Nolde Landscapes, New York 1969, p. 16
3. Emil Nolde, Jahre der Kämpfe, Cologne 1967, p. 100
Fig. 1, Emil and Ada Nolde at the Fisherman's House on the island of Alsen, circa 1910
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