• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7703

    Impressionist/Modern Works on Paper

    5 February 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 141

    Emil Nolde (1867-1956)

    Langensee (Lago Maggiore)

    Price Realised  


    Emil Nolde (1867-1956)
    Langensee (Lago Maggiore)
    signed 'Nolde.' (lower right)
    watercolour on Japan paper
    13 1/8 x 18¾ in. (33.5 x 47.2 cm.)

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    Hans Fehr, Switzerland, a gift from the artist, and thence by descent to the present owners.

    Saleroom Notice

    This work is sold with a photo-certificate from Dr Manfred Reuther, from the Nolde Stiftung, Seebüll.

    Please note that this work was executed in April 1930.

    Please note that the work depicts Vierwaldstätter See (Lac Lucerne), Switzerland, and not as stated in the catalogue.

    Pre-Lot Text

    'The early, first true friends of my art were Hans Fehr, Karl Ernst Osthaus and Gustav Schiefler. These friendships filled Ada and me with pride that these strong, dear people held my art in such high esteem, and their friendship accompanied us throughout our lives. During the early, grey times their letters and visits had a warming effect on us just like rays of sunshine.' (Emil Nolde, Jahre der Kúmpfe, 1902 - 1914, Berlin 1934 (6th edition, Cologne, 1991) p. 145)

    A distinguished Professor of Law, Hans Fehr (1874 - 1961) was also one of the earliest and most important patrons and collectors of German Expressionist Art. A close lifelong friend and patron of Emil Nolde, Fehr played an important supportive role in the development and progress of much German Expressionist art, helping Nolde with advice, friendship and moral and financial support at times of difficulty throughout his life. He was also the person responsible for effectively saving Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's life during the Great War by rescuing him from the German military.

    A descendant of a reputable Swiss family in St. Gallen, Hans Fehr studied law at the universities of Würzburg, Bonn and Berlin before completing a doctorate at the University of Bern. Following this, he joined the Foreign Service and for two years and was the attaché to the Swiss embassy in Paris. His keen academic interest and gift for teaching however, soon led him to pursue an academic career and in 1904, he qualified as a private lecturer at the University of Leipzig. Three years later, Fehr was appointed a full professor by the University of Jena before being called to teach in Halle in 1912 and subsequently in 1917, to the renowned University of Heidelberg. In 1924, Fehr returned to his native Switzerland as a professor of the History of German Law at the University of Bern. His survey 'History of German Law (Deutsche Rechtsgeschichte)' of 1921 saw six editions and between 1923 and 1936 he published his most important work, 'Art and Law' in three volumes.

    Fehr's interest in art stemmed from an early age. As a boy he wanted to become a painter and this ambition had been furthered by his early encounter with Emil Nolde whom he first met when the artist, seven years his senior, became his drawing teacher at his school in St. Gallen. Despite their age difference, the two men struck up a close working friendship which was to last their whole lives. Fehr introduced Nolde to his parent's home and took him on long walks in the Alps and an impromptu trip to Lake Como where, as Nolde remembered in his autobiography, they painted together in the mountains, playfully calling each other, 'Böcklin' and 'von Stuck'.

    Fehr continued to paint throughout his life, and kept up a lifelong correspondence with Nolde in which both men shared many private thoughts, observations and views on art and the work of contemporary artists. Because of his comparative wealth Fehr was able to help Nolde and his wife through many difficult situations, especially at the turn of the century when illness struck and Emil and his wife Ada were struggling financially. For some time, Fehr sent them 50 Marks each month, but he also helped them by acquiring several of Nolde's early paintings and by arranging exhibitions for him. This practice soon led to Fehr acquiring one of the finest private collections of Nolde's work, something which Nolde himself once remarked on when he wrote that he had at last got over the surprise of 'seeing my early, most beautiful pictures in your rooms' each time he visited Fehr.

    With Nolde Fehr also shared a keen interest in folklore and this joy in all things primal and graphic later prompted him to become the publisher of 'Wundersammlung Wickiana', a rare collection of 16th century folklore paintings and pamphlets that is today housed in the Zentralbibliothek Zurich. In 1957, Hans Fehr wrote a testament of his lifelong friendship with Nolde, Emil Nolde. Ein Buch der Freundschaft, a book that traces his friend's artistic development on the basis of their many conversations and letters over the years. Nolde, for his part, often recorded his debt to his friend Fehr. His first mention of Fehr in his autobiography reads: 'When I first started teaching, Hans Fehr became my pupil. But in fact it was not a teacher-pupil relationship. We made friends instantly and a dear friendship it was, one that has lasted for more than half a century, through everything in life since; the good, the bad and the beautiful times' (Emil Nolde, Das eigene Leben, Die Zeit der Jugend 1867-1902, Cologne 1967, p. 165).