This work is sold with a photo-certificate from Professor Dr Manfred Reuther of the Nolde-Stiftung Seebüll.
Nolde grew up the son of a farmer in North Schleswig, on the Danish-German border. Born Emil Hansen, he took the name of his birthplace, Nolde, as his surname in 1902. Throughout his life and artistic career, a profound emotional tie bound him with the 'native soil' as he called his homeland, and the wide, flat marshland near the coast with its high skies and heavy clouds, bathed in changing light, was one of his favourite subjects of his art and an inexhaustible source of inspiration. 'Our landscape is modest, far from being exhilarating or luscious, we know that, and yet, it gives to the intimate beholder who loves it an abundance of heartfelt, quiet beauty, of harsh greatness and even of tempestuously wild life' (E. Nolde, Reisen, Ächtung, Befreiung, Cologne, 1967, p. 9).
From 1905, Nolde and his wife Ada would regularly spend the winter in Berlin, the centre of the new Expressionist movement, but sought the familiarity of the Western coast of Schleswig-Holstein during the summer. Marschlandschaft (Wasser, Schilf am See, zwei Bauernhöfe) depicts the environment near Tondern, where the couple had bought the farmhouse 'Utenwarf' in 1916.
Watercolour was as important a means of expression for Nolde as oil painting, and the medium with which he most freely experimented. From 1908 onwards, he allowed chance to partake in the creative production, pre-soaking the highly absorbent Japan paper so that through the application of the colours, they would run into each other, creating unforeseen blotches and forms, some of which he would then pick out and further strengthen or outline with a brush. In much the same way, the reeds in Marschlandschaft (Wasser, Schilf am See, zwei Bauernhöfe) are intensified by black contours, as is the farmland. The graphic, almost wood-cut like quality of the work recalls Nolde's early training as a wood-carver. The tiny farmhouses or dykes appear as mere ciphers of man's activity in an enormous, self-sufficient landscape.
Despite their rather small format, these abstract works encapsulate the monumentality and beauty of the vast, sparse Northern landscape, in a way that is very much a part of the tradition of Northern Romantic landscape painting and its invocation of powerful, animated nature as a projection space for man's inner feelings. Ultimately, for Nolde, nature was a metaphor for his own deep-rooted sense of belonging to his native soil, and his desire to be the driving force of a 'strong, austere, and spiritual Nordic art' (E. Nolde, Welt und Heimat, Cologne, 2002, p. 116).