EMIL NOLDE (1867-1956)
EMIL NOLDE (1867-1956)
EMIL NOLDE (1867-1956)
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EMIL NOLDE (1867-1956)

Portrait einer Dame

EMIL NOLDE (1867-1956)
Portrait einer Dame
signed ‘Nolde.’ (lower right)
watercolor on Japan paper
17 ½ x 13 1⁄8 in. (44.4 x 33.1 cm.)
Painted circa 1920-1925
Private collection, Germany.
Salis & Vertes, Salzburg.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, circa 2000.
Further details
The late Dr. Martin Urban from the Nolde Stiftung, Seebüll, confirmed the authenticity of this work.

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Lot Essay

“With infinite labor I finally achieved that freer, broader and more fluent manner of depiction for which an especially thorough understanding and re-examination of the structure and character of the paper and the inherent possibilities of color are indispensable. But at the same time, it demands above all a capacity for developing the sensitivity of one’s eye…” (Nolde quoted in Emil Nolde, exh. cat, Whitechapel Gallery London, 1995, p. 170).
Nolde’s contribution to watercolor during the 20th century was a revelation unparalleled by any of his contemporaries which influence a significant lineage of painters to follow. In taking this quaint medium from the past, he reworked it into an expressive, dynamic and challenging arena of art-making which could stand on its own as a painterly medium; not a medium solely for studies and preliminary sketches, but with its own inherent expressive possibilities to be explored and exploited. His fascination with and dedication to this medium, led him to use it as his primary tool on many voyages whereupon he would derive inspiration abroad. This is true of his voyages to Granada and Madrid in 1921, around the time the present work was created (ibid., p. 171).
When working in watercolor, Nolde typically dampened the paper before beginning to paint, allowing the fluid, transparent colors to flow into one another, blurring contours and altering forms. Here, red highlights blush across his sitter’s golden face, forming sensual mouth and cheeks, set against piercing blue eyes that strike out in electric contrast. This abundantly bursting effect conveys the youth and vitality of his sitter, enhanced by the uncontrived brushwork which lends a spontaneous, expressive energy. "I prefer to avoid deliberation beforehand, just a vague idea, a glow and colour suffices," Nolde explained. "Under the work of my hands the picture develops itself" (quoted in Emil Nolde: Watercolours and Graphics, exh. cat., Galerie Michael Beck, Leipzig, 1995, p. 14).
The palette used for Portrait einer Dame acts like a signature; the vibrant, honey-colored yellow and deep, Prussian blue, as seen in many of his most successful and best-known works. The present work comes in the wake of a significant series created in 1919 which includes Rotblondes Mädchen similarly depicting a direct, mask-like face, with a distinctive piercing gaze and immediate directness that was inspired by Nolde’s trips to the South Seas between 1913 and 1914 and his fascination with tribal art. The evocative blues and purples further convey a spiritual quality anticipating the important later Phantasien series, created from 1931 to 1935, whereupon Nolde gave free rein to his visionary imagination. Of course, the human face, and the primordial passions that could be discerned there, was certainly an abiding theme of Nolde’s art, and yet he rarely painted portraits in the conventional sense, preferring to concentrate on freely-imagined figures. We see in Portrait einer Dame the great joy and expression Nolde found from a subject that pleased him greatly, and the subsequent reverie of process inherent for him in exploring its possibilities via pure color on paper.

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