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Emil Nolde (1867-1956)
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Emil Nolde (1867-1956)


Emil Nolde (1867-1956)
signed 'E Nolde.' (lower right)
oil on canvas
30 3/8 x 20½in. (76.9 x 52cm.)
Painted in 1907
Galerie Commeter, Hamburg (997), where purchased by the family of the present owner.
The Artist's Handlist, 1910, a, b no. 34, c no. 150.
The Artist's Handlist, 1930, 1907 Schwertlilien.
Martin Urban, Catalogue raisonné of the Oil Paintings 1895-1914, vol. I, London and New York, 1987, no. 232 (illustrated p. 214).
Hamburg, Galerie Commeter, Commeters Kunstausstellung, February-March 1910, no. 997; this exhibition later travelled to Essen, Kunstverein, April-May 1910 and Jena, Kunstverein, June 1910.
Hamburg, Kunsthalle, Hamburger Privatbesitz, 1917, no. 89.
Kiel, Kunstverein, Rohlfs, Nolde, Barlach, 1920, no. 79.
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Lot Essay

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.

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

For Nolde, flowers were a vivid example of the eternal cycle of birth, life and death in Nature. As a passage in his autobiography Jahre der Kämpfe 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, "sprouting , blossoming, gleaming, glowing, bringing joy, drooping, wilting (and finally) ending up on the rubbish tip." (E. Nolde, Jahre der Kämpfe 1902-14, Cologne, 1967, p.127.)

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. Painted in the summer of 1907, Schwertlilien depicts a row of brilliant red irises bordered by a fence of contrasting cool blue. This scene was probably the garden of one of the houses neighbouring the small fisherman's cottage on Alsen that Nolde and Ada used for their summer holidays in the early 1900s. The wealth of radiant colour in the work with its deliberately contrasting colours of red, yellow and blue creates a profound sense of the warmth of the summer months and the uplifting sight of a cultivated garden in full bloom. In this way Schwertlilien is a work that explores and evokes the sensual pleasure Nolde found in such places and his evident enjoyment of the overwhelming density of detail to be found in such a scene. With every inch of the canvas filled with colour, Schwertlilien is a parade of energy and vitality that emotionally expresses Nolde's pantheistic delight in the colours and fecundity of life.



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