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Two art exhibitions currently active in Berlin accession important questions about the accord of assertive beat artists to the Hitler administration in Germany.

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The Hamburger Bahnhof abreast art building is captivation an exhibition of paintings by Emil Nolde (1876-1956), Emil Nolde—A German Legend. The Artisan during the Nazi Regime, which deals with the artist’s accord to the Nazis and their ideology.

The Brücke Building takes up the aforementioned affair in Escape into Art? The Brücke Painters in the Nazi Period, apperception on the artists Erich Heckel (1883-1970), Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976), Max Pechstein (1881-1950) and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938). In 1905, this aggregate founded the acclaimed aesthetic accumulation Die Brücke (The Bridge).

This commodity deals with the Nolde exhibition, a additional will accord with the Brücke painters.

In 1937, Emil Nolde had added of his paintings confiscated and put on affectation at the belled Nazi Degenerate Art exhibition—which included assignment by Cubists, Surrealists, Dadaists, Expressionists and others that the Hitler administration despised—than any added German artist. Hundreds of his works were destroyed and 1,052 were removed from museums. Despite this, Nolde remained a loyal adherent of Hitler until the atrophy of the Nazi administration in 1945.

Nolde is admired in Germany and internationally as one of the capital assembly of classical modernism. His works adhere in abounding museums and beautify endless art books. His paintings of flowers and landscapes accept been reproduced in endless prints, and reproductions of his works adhere in abounding active rooms.

The abundant acceptance of Nolde’s art is in no baby admeasurement apprenticed up with the actuality that he was denounced by the Nazis as a “degenerate” artisan and, afterward the end of Apple War II, was animated to the cachet of attrition figure. The accomplished exhibition in the Hamburger Bahnhof building provides a abundant accord of advice apropos the contradictions in Nolde’s biography, how they chronicle to the accessible acumen of his art and how he should be evaluated historically.

Until recently, Nolde was mainly associated in the accessible eye with his abusage by the Hitler regime, but contempo analysis has appear the abounding admeasurement of his anti-Semitism and embrace of Nazi ideology, which he and his followers approved to burrow afterwards 1945.

The accustomed exhibition follows the aesthetic career of Nolde and displays his paintings, watercolours and cartoon calm with belletrist and added abstracts accustomed in actual context, anecdotic his acknowledgment as an artisan and animal actuality to the contest and affairs of the time. A two-volume annal has been appear for the exhibition, documenting his aesthetic assignment accompanied by accounting testimonials. (1)

Nolde was built-in Hans Emil Hansen in 1867 in the apple of Nolde abreast Tønder (Northern Schleswig, today allotment of Denmark). His ancestor was a farmer. As a child, Hans Emil was amorous about painting, a affection his parents did not share. In their opinion, he was to get a “proper” job as a artisan or farmer. Afterwards commutual a woodcarving apprenticeship in Flensburg, the adolescent man became a abecedary of bartering cartoon and modelling in the Swiss boondocks of St. Gallen. He additionally formed for a time as a carver in appliance factories in Karlsruhe, Munich and Berlin.

In 1898, he was alone by the Munich Art Academy and instead accustomed training in the arts at clandestine painting schools. He catholic to Paris and abounding the Académie Julian, area artists Paula Modersohn-Becker and Clara Westhoff additionally studied. In 1900, he confused into a flat in Copenhagen and, two years later, affiliated a priest’s babe and actress, Ada Vilstrup. He afflicted his aftermost name to his birthplace in Nolde, to accent his “Nordic” background.

During this aeon he corrective his aboriginal religious images arising from “childhood memories and his own imagination.” (2) One of them, Pentecost, which he submitted in 1910 for an exhibition of the Berlin Secession movement (an artists’ accumulation that had set itself up in 1898 adjoin the ascendant bookish trend), was alone by its president, the painter Max Liebermann. “If the account is hung, I’ll abdicate my post,” Liebermann, who was Jewish, is declared to accept said. Nolde retaliated in an abhorrent address and was expelled from the Secession movement.

The argument and Nolde’s added poisonous anti-Semitism were active in the breach of the Secession movement. From that point on, Nolde raged endlessly adjoin what he admired as a Jewish-dominated art bazaar and cultural ambiance that banned to recognise his talent.

Again and again, he saw himself as a victim, as a blurred ability and abhorrent Jewish art critics. Nolde and his wife bankrupt off their accord with the Jewish analyzer Rosa Schapire, who sponsored the Brücke artists and additionally abundantly encouraged Nolde: “The fast-growing accord amid her and us anon burst again. Alone ashes remain. Gone with the wind. In art it was my aboriginal acquainted appointment with a animal altered from myself. … Jews accept a lot of intelligence and spirituality, but little anatomy and little aesthetic talent,” he wrote in his autobiography. (3)

The aboriginal editions of the aboriginal two volumes of his autobiography, My Own Life (1930) and Years of Struggle (1934), which awning the years 1867 to 1914, accommodate abundant nationalist, racist and anti-Semitic remarks.

Nolde’s assignment is associated with the aesthetic addiction accustomed as Expressionism, although he himself alone this term. Expressionist art and abstract emerged in Germany in the aboriginal decades of the 20th aeon as a countermovement to Naturalism and Impressionism. The archetypal to be followed was French Fauvism with its alive colours. Its followers alone any actual apery of attributes in favour of an advancing anamorphosis of accountable matter. Their works were generally characterised by abrupt colours and contrasts, generally cartoon from declared “primitive” African and Oceanic art.

The appellation was coined by the announcer Herwarth Walden, editor of the annual Der Sturm (The Storm), which appear works by abounding arch Expressionists. The account Die Aktion (The Action), edited by Franz Pfemfert, was additionally an important advertisement featuring arcane texts, as able-bodied as abundant cartoon by Expressionist artists. (Both Walden and Pfemfert afterwards abutting the apprentice Communist Affair of Germany. Walden died in the Stalinist purges in the Soviet Union in 1941. Pfemfert became alone associated with Leon Trotsky, and his wife, Alexandra Ramm, did all-encompassing adaptation of Trotsky’s works.)

The Expressionist painters were anxious with abstraction the apple according to their own abstract animosity and impressions, rather than attempting to characterize concrete reality. Manifold examples of such assignment were produced by the artists’ associations Die Brücke and additionally Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider). Abounding of those circuitous in these groups, including Nolde, agilely accustomed Apple War I in 1914 as a gigantic storm that would thoroughly bedrock the tectonic plates of an encrusted age.

Politically, the Expressionist movement was actual diverse. Its political statements were abundantly broadcast and non-committal. Assembly of the movement admired themselves as rebels adjoin the bureaucratic, backward-looking cultural action and corruption of the Wilhelmine Aeon in Germany (1890-1918), but they abundantly alone left-wing ethics in favour of the anti-bourgeois sentiments bidding in the aberrant philosophies of Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Schopenhauer and Henri Bergson.

They rebelled adjoin the corruption and attenuated mindedness of the ancestry and the accustomed schools of art—Impressionism, Naturalism and Art Nouveau. The aforementioned aeon saw the actualization of agnate tendencies such as the Lebensreform (Life Reform) and Jugend (Youth) movements, as able-bodied as Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy. These were tendencies that appealed to and were predominantly broadcast by layers of the petty bourgeoisie, who rebelled adjoin the accustomed world, industrialisation and urbanisation. They alone what they declared the barnyard “materialism” of backer association and generally approved instead a romantic, back-to-nature alternative. They had little in accustomed with Marxism, left-wing account or the alive class.

The Die Brücke aesthetic accumulation (Heckel, Pechstein, Kirchner and Schmidt-Rottluff) was founded in Dresden, and Nolde acquainted at home in the group. In February 1906, Schmidt-Rottluff wrote a letter to Nolde, who was about fifteen years older, agreeable him to become a affiliate of the association: “Dear Mr. Nolde, anticipate what you want, we appetite to accord you appropriately for your storms of colour.”

Nolde acquiescently accustomed the allurement and remained affiliated to Die Brücke afterwards he larboard the accumulation the afterward year. He was “disturbed” by the group’s declared accomplishment to actualize a unified aesthetic style, noting: “You should not alarm yourself a bridge, but rather van Goghiana.” Nolde’s own art was afflicted by both Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, amid others.

In 1912, Nolde apparent alongside the Blue Rider group, a additional accumulation of cogent Expressionist artists, founded by Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky. During this period, Nolde acquired acceptance in the art apple and was able to alive calmly from his painting.

A year later, Nolde and his wife took allotment in a South Seas campaign organised by the German government’s Colonial Office, which landed them in New Guinea. Nolde’s assignment was to investigate the “racial peculiarities of the population.” He admired accelerating colonisation as a crisis to aboriginal peoples, who allegedly lived in accord with nature. He had ahead advised the art of “primitive” peoples in the Berlin Ethnological Building in chase of the “strange, earliest and primitive.” (6) The Aboriginal Apple War bankrupt out as Nolde was abiding from his trip. Nolde accustomed the alpha of war.

In affiliation with an aboriginal self-portrait of Nolde, evocative of Rembrandt’s self-portraits, the curators Bernhard Fulda and Aya Soika explain in the addition to the Hamburger Bahnhof annal that Nolde and his wife Ada admired Julius Langbehn (1851-1907) and his book Rembrandt as Teacher. Langbehn’s book claimed that Rembrandt was the best “German of all German painters,” a adumbrative of a “purely German art” and portrayed the abundant Dutch painter as a bulk who could be articular with a “Greater Germany.” Such nostrums were basic to the brainy accoutrements of Nazism.

For Nolde, Langbehn’s angel of the “individual artisan as a angelic figure” and “national saviour” was abnormally attractive, the curators write, aloft all, because he consistently accustomed himself as a blurred genius, a ballsy astrologer whose time was yet to come.

A angry agitation about Expressionism developed central the Civic Left-wing German Workers Affair (NSDAP, the Nazi party) in the 1920s and aboriginal ‘30s. In particular, the altercation revolved about Nolde. The exhibition curators acknowledge that decidedly Nolde had a cardinal of arresting supporters in the Nazi ranks. His religious images, afterwards denounced by Hitler as monstrosities and acutely featured in the “Degenerate Art” exhibition of 1937, were initially accustomed by some critics as actuality aggressive by the spirit of German Gothic art.

Statements fabricated by Hitler’s arch ideologue, Alfred Rosenberg, are prime examples of the antecedent clashing attitude of some Civic Socialists, as far as beat art was concerned.

Rosenberg accustomed Expressionism in 1922 as a groundbreaking German appearance in his assignment The Myth of the 20th Aeon (1930), while accusatory abreast painters, including Ernst Barlach, Käthe Kollwitz and Nolde as “Cultural Bolsheviks” and “bunglers.” His adjudication on Nolde was damning, but he larboard a baby aperture open. In 1933, he ascribed a assertive aptitude to Nolde and Ernst Barlach, alone to afterwards accuse Nolde’s “portraiture attempts” as “negroid, aweless and bare of any absolute close determinative power” in the Völkischer Beobachter, the Nazi Party’s newspaper. (6)

For his part, Nolde connected to abode aerial hopes in Civic Socialism and in the closing acceptance of his art by arch Nazis. To authenticate his brainy loyalty, he abutting the Civic Left-wing Association of Northern Schleswig, a Danish annex of the NSDAP, in 1934. (He had been a Danish aborigine back the Treaty of Versailles.)

Nolde about accustomed Civic Socialism and arch Nazis—including Josef Goebbels, Hermann Göring and Albert Speer—owned his artwork and accustomed it as a able announcement of German and Nordic culture. However, Nolde anon fell out of grace, forth with added Expressionists, afterwards Adolf Hitler’s admission of ability in 1933. He was a victim of the Nazis’ “blood and soil” credo directed by Hitler, a bootless painter himself defective any aesthetic skill.

The added the Nazis circumscribed their ability and set advance for war, the added accurate became their censorship and abolishment of art.

On November 8, 1933, Nolde accustomed an allurement from SS baton Heinrich Himmler to appear the tenth ceremony of Hitler’s bootless accomplishment d’état in 1923 in Munich. The artisan allegedly accepted his art would be acquiescently accepted by the Nazis. He assumed—in vain—that they would acknowledge Expressionism to be Germany’s civic art form.

Göring had watercolours by Nolde in his apartment—until Hitler told him to booty them bottomward during a visit. Despite his antecedent abutment of the Expressionists, ability abbot Goebbels and added arch Nazis assuredly capitulated to the romanticised, cliché-ridden and reactionary aesthetic aftertaste of the Fü hrer. As aboriginal as 1933, Nolde was asked to abdicate the Prussian Academy of Arts, which he banned to do. His appliance for associates in Rosenberg’s Militant League for German Ability was additionally rejected.

In the summer of 1933, Nolde went so far as to abstract his own “banish the Jews plan” for Germany, which he approved to abide to Hitler. His plan declared for the resettlement of the absolute Jewish population. He additionally denounced his Brücke aide Max Pechstein as a Jew on the base of the latter’s name. Pechstein was affected to abjure the allegation by accouterment “proof” that he was absolutely “Aryan.” In the aforementioned year, Nolde beatific two portraits to Goebbels to appearance to Hitler. Nolde declared his art to Goebbels as “German, strong, absinthian and heartfelt.”

Although these attempts to acquisition absolution were unsuccessful, Nolde still enjoyed some success in the art apple over the abutting few years. He was able to affectation and his paintings awash well.

The course angry actually adjoin Nolde in 1937, although the year had amorphous able-bodied for him. His works had been apparent in Munich, Berlin and Mannheim.

Hitler had proclaimed his own apperception of German art at the Reich Affair Convention in Nuremberg in September 1935. Art charge be, the German Nazi baton declared, “the absolute adviser of the abstract and the admirable and appropriately agent of the accustomed and healthy.” Hitler vilified all types of beat art as “Jewish-Bolshevist cultural mockery”: “It is not the action of art to wallow in clay for dirt’s sake, never its assignment to acrylic the accompaniment of decomposition, to draw cretins as the attribute of motherhood, to account hunchbacked idiots as assembly of any strength.”

The Nazis organised their abominable Degenerate Art exhibition, with 650 works confiscated from German museums that were accounted to “insult German feeling, or abort or abash accustomed anatomy or artlessly acknowledge an absence of able chiral and aesthetic skill,” in July 1937. The exhibition featured works by Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian, Marc Chagall, Paul Klee, George Grosz, Kandinsky, Kirchner and abounding others.

Nolde was acutely represented in the exhibition with 57 works. He wrote abundant belletrist of beef in which he acicular out that in his career as an artisan he had been “opposed to the breach of German art, to the begrimed art trade, and the boundless Jewish advantage in all aesthetic matters.” Therefore, the censorship of his own art charge be due to “misunderstandings” that appropriate clarification. (7)

He eventually managed to get his pictures removed from the exhibition back it set off for a bout of German cities. However, abundant of his assignment was confiscated and all his paintings were removed from museums. Abounding of his works were awash away for adopted currency, but a ample cardinal were artlessly destroyed.

In 1941, Nolde was expelled from the Reich Chamber of Fine Arts. He was prevented from any able or part-time action in the acreage of the beheld arts because his assignment “did not accommodated requirements accepted back 1933 for all beheld artists alive in Germany.” The 74-year-old artisan could no best affectation or advertise and could not acquirement painting utensils, but this did not bulk to an absolute “ban on painting,” as he himself claimed.

Even these desperate measures did not agitate Nolde’s acceptance in Nazism. He and his wife connected until the end of the war to accept in “final victory,” although they suffered the accident of about 3,000 artworks in the 1944 bombing of their Berlin apartment.

Nolde corrective abounding baby watercolours in these years, which afterwards served as templates for oil paintings. Nolde himself and art historians afterwards referred to this anatomy of assignment as his “Unpainted pictures.” Although acutely spontaneously corrective on aloof a few debris of paper, they are in actuality composed absolutely anxiously and Nolde was akin able to complete a few of them at the time as oil paintings. His accountable bulk during this aeon consisted mainly of flowers, landscapes or abstracts from Norse mythology. Afterwards 1933, Nolde had switched from “Jewish” Biblical abstracts to Nordic heroes, castles, sacrificial sites and landscapes, akin admitting he never acclimatized to the blazon of painting favoured by Hitler.

Sixty of the “unpainted pictures” were angry into oil paintings afterwards the war and represent a ample allotment of Nolde’s postwar work.

Nolde was accustomed a apple-pie bill of bloom in the denazification trials in 1946, due to the Nazis’ bounce of his art. As the accustomed Berlin exhibition documents, the painter was portrayed in the postwar aeon as the clothing of the afflicted beat artisan and akin a array of attrition fighter adjoin the Nazi dictatorship. The Nolde Foundation contributed acerb to this image.

Nolde’s longstanding Nazi associates was buried and his four-volume adventures was abundantly apple-pie of anti-Semitic and racist passages. His acreage in Seebüll became a affectionate of crusade site.

He accustomed abundant German and all-embracing honours and exhibitions up until his afterlife in 1956 and beyond. In 1950, German admiral Theodor Heuss (Free Autonomous Party), a accomplished art historian, insisted that Nolde accompany him on a appointment to Schleswig-Holstein. In 1952, Nolde accustomed the Pour le Mérite adjustment of merit, the accomplished German accolade for science and art. His paintings were displayed on several occasions at the Venice Biennale as able-bodied as at the documenta 1 exhibition in Kassel in 1955, which was committed to the “degenerate” artists defamed by the Nazis.

Nolde and his art played an important role in West Germany during the Cold War and the downplaying of the crimes committed by the Nazis. In the documenta 1 catalog, art historian Werner Haftmann wrote that the abstraction of aesthetic abandon was capital to action the declared instrumentalisation of art beneath Bolshevism. Haftmann was additionally one of the best important propagators of the legends surrounding Nolde’s “Unpainted Pictures.” (8)

Nolde was admired as a bulk of “resistance” by assembly of all the capital political parties. Nolde was acclimated by both politicians and cultural admiral akin to authenticate that postwar Germany had angry over a new blade and was ability a autonomous “new beginning.” Nolde was altogether ill-fitted to advice awning the advance of those who had compromised themselves during the Nazi administration and approved to rid themselves of any answerability or abetment in its crimes. Akin afterwards his death, Nolde was fabricated use of as allotment of Germany’s “coming to grips with the past” via the afire captivation of the foundation in Seebüll. As backward as 2013, Nolde biographer Kirsten Jüngling was denied admission to the Nolde archive. She was, however, able to draw aloft abundant added about accessible belletrist and documents. (9)

One of the arch assemblage of Nolde’s art was a above baton of the Social Autonomous Party, Helmut Schmidt. In his position as Germany’s chancellor, Schmidt wrote to his acquaintance columnist Siegfried Lenz that Nolde was the greatest German artisan of the century. Schmidt went on to advance that Nolde’s admittance in the Degenerate Art exhibition was the acumen for his own bounce of Nazism as a 17-year-old. During his years as chancellor, 1974-1982, Schmidt apparent paintings by Nolde in the Chancellery in Bonn. Lenz’s acclaimed novel, The German Lesson, played its own role in adorning Nolde’s ability and was generally apprehend as if it were a book assignment about the afflicted artist.

Schmidt, anon afore his afterlife in 2015, wrote the addition to a Nolde exhibition annal in Hamburg. In it he briefly mentions that there had been a altercation over Nolde’s Nazi connections, but wrote annihilation more.

Only afterwards the afterlife of Nolde’s additional wife Jolanthe in 2010 and a change in the administration of the Ada and Emil Nolde Foundation in Seebüll were the painter’s athenaeum gradually fabricated accessible for research, enabling Nolde’s absolute attitude to Nazism to be discussed publicly. A cardinal of such abstracts were aboriginal fabricated accessible to the accessible in an exhibition at the Städel Building in Frankfurt bristles years ago. The Frankfurt exhibition drew absorption to the cogent changes in Nolde’s aesthetic accountable bulk afterward Hitler’s admission of power.

The Hamburger Bahnhof exhibition was able to draw on contempo analysis by its two curators, Aya Soika and Bernhard Fulda, who had complete admission to the athenaeum of the Nolde Foundation. The exhibition exposes the all-encompassing efforts of Nolde and his wife Ada to consolidate their relations with the Hitler administration and abstain censorship.

A aggregation to the Berlin exhibition could not advice actuality addled by the afterimage of visitors of all ages poring over the affidavit and belletrist at hand, as able-bodied as assiduously analytical the artwork on display.

What makes an appraisal of Nolde and his art complex, accustomed the absoluteness of his base advantage and allegiance to Nazism, is the actuality that he did not acclimate his aesthetic appearance to the backward-looking, awe-inspiring and biased inclinations of Hitler and his followers. Nolde did not acrylic in the address of Adolf Ziegler, a abject painter and an organiser of the Degenerate Art exhibition, and abounding added artists apparent in the ample Abundant German Art exhibition of 1937 in the anew congenital Haus der Kunst in Munich.

The actuality that it is now accessible to accurately allocate Nolde and his art historically is in ample allotment due to the accustomed exhibition and its curators.

The latest revelations about Nolde accept bootless to affect the amount of his pictures on the backer art market. As Kirsten Jüngling explained in an interview: “Immediately afterwards the advertisement of my book, I asked about at Art Cologne and able arcade owners if the contempo publications on Nolde’s political accomplished had had any aftereffect on the admiration to buy (his paintings). It was annoying. You accept to apperceive that astronomic amounts are paid for Expressionist pictures, not atomic because they represent abiding investments. People get afraid back the Nolde aggregation shows signs of weakness.” (10)


(1) Emil Nolde: The Artisan during the Nazi Regime, Bernhard Fulda, Christian Ring and Aya Soika, Prestel, 2019

(2) Christian Ring, “Art itself is my language,” in: Emil Nolde—The Abundant Colour Wizard, Munich 2018, 29

(3) Emil Nolde, Years of Struggle, Rembrandt Verlag, Berlin 1934, 101, 102

(4) Ring, 22f

(5) Leon Trotsky, Abstract and Revolution, Berlin 1994, p. 132, 133


(7) Ring, 37

(8) Werner Haftmann, Emil Nolde—Unpainted Pictures, 7th edition, Cologne 1996

(9) Kirsten Jüngling, Emil Nolde. Die Farben sind meine Noten, Berlin 2013

(10) Kirsten Jüngling, Interview in tageszeitung:!5432445/

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