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    Sale 7701

    Impressionist/Modern Art, Evening Sale

    4 February 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 26

    Emil Nolde (1867-1956)

    Violette Blumen

    Price Realised  


    Emil Nolde (1867-1956)
    Violette Blumen
    signed and dated 'Emil Nolde 07.' (lower right); signed again and titled '"Violette Blumen" Emil Nolde.' (on the stretcher)
    oil on canvas
    24 7/8 x 30 7/8 in. (63.2 x 78.4 cm.)
    Painted in 1907

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    'I have, by now, got used to seeing my early, most beautiful pictures in your rooms. Otherwise I must say that I would have loved to keep them to myself and I would like these strong pictures to be part of my exhibitions' (Letter from Emil Nolde to Hans Fehr, 21st July 1910, cited in Hans Fehr, Emil Nolde. Ein Buch der Freundschaft Cologne, 1957, p. 73)

    All his life Nolde was moved by the beauty of plants and flowers. In his later years in the grounds of his houses at Utenwarf and in Seebüll, Nolde created elaborate gardens filled with a wide range of exotic flowers from all around the globe.

    Painted in 1907, Violette Blumen is one of the first series of flower paintings that Nolde painted during his summer visits to the Baltic island of Alsen in 1906, 1907 and 1908. Moving on from his purely impressionistic beginnings, the stark intensity of colour in a painting such as Violette Blumen reveals Nolde consciously using colour to stimulate and evoke an emotional response in the viewer.

    Much of the inspiration for this 'humanizing' of nature came not just from Nolde's own personal experience but also from the example set for him by Vincent Van Gogh. Like Van Gogh, Nolde always aimed to work swiftly and impulsively over the surface of the picture in order to give energy and life to his paintings and heighten their sense of emotional intensity. Nolde, like many of his contemporaries, was greatly suspicious of the rational element in art and elevated instinct above reason as being the most important source of creativity. 'In art I fight for unconscious creation', he wrote to his friend Hans Fehr, reiterating elsewhere that 'the quicker a painting is done, the better it is...When inspiration falters, even for a moment, barren reason leaps to the rescue, and then the work is ruined. If only I could catch it, I would pin reason against the wall and give it a good hiding.' (Emil Nodle cited in Max Sauerlandt ed., Emil Nolde Briefe aus den Jahren 1894-1926 Hamburg, 1967, p. 31)

    On the island of Alsen it was the well-kept fisherman's cottages there, which had 'small, rich, beautifully kept gardens, surrounded by beech hedges and always abounding in flowers,' that inspired many of his finest and most adventurous paintings. For Nolde, flowers were a vivid example of the eternal cycle of birth, life and death in Nature. As a passage in his autobiography reveals, flowers were for him a beautiful product of creation and could be likened to a work of art in the sense that their life cycle was essentially the same. Both, he argued, were the products of natural forces and thereby subject to the same laws of creation and inevitable decay, 'shooting up, blooming, radiating, glowing, gladdening, drooping, wilting, and ultimately thrown away and dying. Our human destinies are by no means always so logical or so beautiful' (Emil Nolde. Jahre de Kämpfe 1902-1914, Berlin, 1934, p.228.).

    Nolde's flower paintings communicate the artist's pantheist belief in nature and his love of all aspects of creation. In this respect they relate closely to his darker and more complex religious paintings, which Nolde insisted, demanded 'a particular attitude of mind' from the viewer.

    Depicting the radiant blooming colour of a variety of different flowers sprouting from the green undergrowth and seeming to scream the richness and vitality of their from the surface of the picture, Violette Blumen is an intense and heavily textured work that boldly asserts Nolde's love of and atavistic faith in the beneficial power of the garden.

    In its stark contrast of rich reds and deep purples set against their chromatic opposites of pale greens and light yellows, this painting radiates with a full colour intensity. It is an intensity for which Nolde, in these early years received some criticism from people complaining that such paintings falsely exaggerated the colours of nature. Such criticism Nolde strongly rebuked as he discussed with Hans Fehr at this time. 'The beholder', he told his friend, 'will say about my flower paintings that the colours are exaggerated. That is not true. I once positioned my canvases amidst the flowers themselves and saw immediately how much they paled compared to nature. We have no idea how jaded our eyes have become' (Emil Nolde in conversation with Hans Fehr in 1908, cited in Hans Fehr, op cit, p. 56).

    Special Notice

    VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 15% on the buyer's premium


    Hans Fehr, Switzerland, by whom acquired directly from the artist in 1908, and thence by descent to the present owner.

    Pre-Lot Text

    Hans Fehr and Emil Nolde: True Friendship

    '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 Kämpfe, 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 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).



    The artist's handlist, 1910, nos. a & b 133 and c 149.
    The artist's handlist, 1930, as '1907 Violette Blumen'.
    M. Urban, Emil Nolde: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, Volume One 1895-1914, London, 1987, no. 231 (illustrated p. 213).


    Berlin, Kunstsalon Cassirer, V. Ausstellung (X. Jg.), 1908, no. 52. Paris, Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Figures du moderne: l'expressionnisme en Allemagne de 1905 à 1914, November 1992 - March 1993.