April 21, 2017

Block Printmaker Nolde

        Emil Nolde (German/Danish, 1867-1956) was an expressionist painter known for his exploration of color.  So what’s he doing here in a blog called “Black and White”?  Well, he did woodcuts, too, in that rough expressionist style.  The first one here is the most famous, in which the haggard face looms up out of the rough wood with an expression of intense… I was going to say “anguish,” but maybe “disappointment” is more accurate, even if it doesn’t sound as dramatic.  The rough woodcarving works perfectly for the hollow eyes and gaunt features.
        This fishing boat is also “haggard,” if that adjective can be applied to something inanimate.  It’s interesting for the visible wood grain along the hull, implying the wood block Nolde used was a pretty rough plank, rather than the very fine plywood that’s often used by artists.  Also, notice how imperfect the inking is, especially around the bottom and edges.  I reject my own impressions that have inking like this, but it’s consistent with the expressionists’ emphasis on trying to convey emotion and immediate personal experience.  Generally I don’t much like Nolde’s people, with the exception of the prophet above, so it’s fun to discover his boats, which I do enjoy.
        On a biographical note, Nolde was a Nazi supporter, and even after his work was labelled “degenerate” and he was banned from painting, he continued to plead his loyalty and support of the regime, while painting watercolors in secret.  After World War II, the Nazi’s rejection of his art was taken as sufficient evidence for his rejection of the Nazis, and he was reinstated to much success and acclaim.  From a justice perspective this seems really weak, but I guess from an art perspective it’s good that he was able to create more work.  In any case, the pieces I have here today are all earlier.

        And here is the digest of previously-featured printmakers for the letter N:
Nydam, Anne (or, of course, all through this blog!  Search on “AEGN” in the sidebar, and you should end up with every post illustrated with one of my own pieces.)

[Pictures: Prophet, woodcut by Emil Nolde, 1912 (Image from MoMA);
Fischdampfer (Fishing Steamer), woodcut by Nolde, 1910 (Image from ArtStack);
Plate 66 from Schiefler Werkverzeichnis (directory of Nolde’s work), woodcut by Nolde, 1910 (Image from Christie’s).]

A-Z Challenge, all posts for the letter N


Kristin said...

The man does look stricken. I like the water with the boat. Lots of movement. Sorry to learn he was a nazi sympathizer though.
Finding Eliza

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Yeah, it's always a knotty question - how much should the artist's personal life affect our judgment or enjoyment of the art? A little more about that in another post about Carl Moll.