This work is sold with a photo-certificate from Professor Dr. Manfred Reuther of the Nolde Stiftung, Seebüll.
Schweizer Alpenlandschaft und der Vierwaldstättersee was a gift from the artist to the grandmother of the present owner, and has never been offered at auction before, or seen in public for three generations.
Emil Nolde is widely regarded as one of the twentieth century's finest watercolourists. Alongside his paintings in oil, Nolde executed an extraordinary body of compelling watercolours that display a remarkable mastery of the medium and show him at his most experimental and innovative. Through strokes of watercolour he captured a wide variety of subjects ranging from the vast and sodden landscapes of his homeland on the German-Danish border to the abundant flowers of his lovingly cultivated gardens, and from mystical figures of fantasy to motifs drawn from the world of modern life - and those recorded during his travels, such as the present lot. Nolde's deft handling of watercolours was developed and honed over many years of experimentation. He first explored the medium in the mid-1890s. It was over a decade later, however, before watercolour painting became, as he described it, an 'inner need' - a need that was to endure until his death in 1956 (E. Nolde, quoted in Emil Nolde: Watercolors and Graphics, exh. cat. New York & Leipzig, 1995, p. 18).
Guided by the intrinsic properties of this fluid medium, Nolde aimed to convey a sense of nature's dynamism, allowing imagery to emerge organically as the brush came into contact with the paper and colour to materialise into form. From 1910, Nolde favoured highly absorbent Japan paper, which he would often moisten before saturating with layers of diluted paint. In his wet-on-wet technique, diaphanous strokes of translucent pigment freely stained and permeated the paper, creating shifting depths of intensely luminous colour, as seen in the blues and yellows of Schweizer Alpenlandschaft und der Vierwaldstättersee. Applying different degrees of pressure with the brush, he would reinforce certain contours, sometimes outlining the forms with thin decorative lines. Nolde's second wife recorded this process in which chance effects were controlled by his skilled knowledge of the medium: 'patiently the brush caresses the surface, the wet paper cockles, the colour gradually accumulating in the little hollows...Because he painted with such diluted colours, the contours would stray across the surface of the paper for up to an hour...the paper would soak up the colour, the contours would spread as if the material had become liberated...The pictures just happened, unfolded like living beings - under guidance, but with a life of their own' (J. Nolde, quoted in P. Vergo & F. Lunn, Emil Nolde, exh. cat., London, 1996, p. 161).
Dr. Manfred Reuter has confirmed that this watercolour belongs to the series of ‘Berg-Aquarellen’ or ‘Mountain-Watercolours’ that Nolde painted during a trip to the Swiss Alps in April 1930. Nolde’s links to Switzerland date back to January 1892 when, at the age of 24, he began teaching commercial graphics at the Museum for Industrial and Applied Arts at St Gallen. He would always recall the dramatic natural surroundings there, and in later life would regularly return to Switzerland to see friends and enjoy the landscape. His visit of 1930 was the most wide-ranging trip he made, which included Zurich, Bad Ragaz, and Lake Lucerne - the setting of Schweizer Alpenlandschaft und der Vierwaldstättersee. Andreas Fluck has observed that ‘Nolde did not paint a single oil painting during his numerous holidays in Switzerland…presumably he did not consider oil painting a suitable medium to capture the way in which he saw and felt the beauty of the Swiss mountain landscape’ (A. Fluck, “Nolde und die Schweiz” in M. Reuter, et. al., Emil Nolde Reiselust, Seebüll, 2010, pp. 18-19.)