We would like to thank the Forschungsprojekt 'Entartete Kunst' at the
department of art history at the Freie Universität Berlin for their
assistance in cataloguing this lot.
'Though my knowledge - and my desire for artistic expansion and for pictorial possibilities - may range to the utmost pictorial regions of reality, of imagination or of dreams, home (die Heimat) remains the primal soil' (Emil Nolde, Reisen- Ächtung - Befreiung (1919-1946), Cologne, 1994, p.35).
Throughout his life, Nolde maintained a strong spiritual connection with the landscape of his heimat or homeland in the borderlands of Northern Schleswig. It was in 1902 that Nolde, born Emil Hansen, first identified himself completely with his heimat by changing his surname to the town of his birthplace, Nolde. This act was not merely done to avoid confusion with other 'Hansens', but, as Nolde put it, also 'because it was what he wanted in pursuit of the Romantic impulse' (E. Nolde, Welt und Heimat (1913-1918), Cologne, 1990, p. 247).
Freisenhäser II is a typically intense Expressionist landscape that Nolde painted in the summer of 1910. Drenched in the fiery colours of sunset, it is a work that speaks powerfully of the union of man, landscape and the elements through its fusion of heightened colour and the shimmering energy of its brushwork. Nearly abstract in parts, it is a Romantic vista somewhat reminiscent of the kind of spiritual expression of landscape sought by Vincent Van Gogh in his paintings of peasants working the land.
Although Nolde rarely painted an imaginary landscape, preferring to draw directly from the windswept countryside of the Danish borderlands where he spent most of his life, his landscape paintings, rooted in 'the primal depths' of his artistic identity, 'far down and close to home', as he put it, are far more than mere literal depictions of his immediate surroundings. In the same way that he identified himself with the landscape of his North Schleswig heimat, Nolde also sought through his art, and like Van Gogh before him, to commune with and give expression to the primal and eternal, elemental forces at work within nature. To this end, Nolde chose to work directly from the natural environment, often venturing out into the fields in all weathers in order to experience at first hand the natural forces of his immediate surroundings, to feel them, and thereby be able to intuitively transmit their energy and vibration onto canvas. 'In the city', Nolde wrote, 'one pays little attention to the occurrences of nature. Its drama is not experienced. It is different in the flat countryside' (Emil Nolde quoted in Emil Nolde: Mein Garten voller Blumen, exh. cat., Seebüll 2009, p. 73). Nolde often bestowed his landscapes with an undisguised symbolic significance, using the feverish energy of radiant burning sunset skies, shimmering seas and windswept marshes as clear metaphors for the power of nature and the eternal confrontation between man in his natural state and the elements. He did paint however, as Peter Vergo has pointed out, 'what must be considered to some extent idealized views, seeking to represent the essential character of his surroundings as opposed to their merely external aspect, the fickle and deceptive face of natural appearances' (Emil Nolde, exh. cat., London, 1996, p. 128).
Always maintaining a certain degree of faithfulness to outward appearance, Nolde's landscapes are nonetheless largely abstracted expressions of the artist's own emotions. They are an attempt at transmitting, not just the visual sensation of the landscape before him but also the physical and emotional effect this environment instills in man. 'I loved the collaboration with nature, being bound up in nature, painter, reality, picture' Nolde wrote of such works (Emil Nolde, 1908, E. Nolde, Jahre der Kämpfe 1902-1914, Cologne, 1991, p. 90).
Echoing to some extent a work like Vincent Van Gogh's 1888 painting Mass at Sainte Marie, Friesenhauser II is a powerful example of this tendency of Nolde's art to convey a heightened experience of the primal relationship between man and nature through the medium of his immediate environment. In this case the landscape is likely to have been the Frisian houses of Ruttebüll - a small fishing village on the Frisian coast where Nolde spent the summer of 1910.
Freisenhäser II is one of four paintings depicting the classic Frisian style houses of the area, set deep and low against the flat landscape, which Nolde painted in 1910. Delineating a row of these houses extending along a road towards the dramatically coloured sky of sunset, here both nature and architecture seem to interweave with one another. The painting is dominated by a series of dramatic sweeps and smears of vibrant paint swiftly and impulsively laid onto the surface of the canvas in radiant, thick and clashing colour in such a way that Nolde's commanding brushwork combines to build a universally active surface appearing to pulsate with its own energy and vigour. In this way it generates what Ernst Bloch once described as 'the inner aspect of the world' and it is solely through the animated texture and brilliant colour of this magnificent brushwork that the simple pastoral forms of this village landscape seem also to become invested with a powerful and persuasive sense of spirit.
Almost entirely the result of a series of largely intuitive responses to the feelings prompted in him by this scene of a village rooted in the soil of a Northern landscape towards sunset, Nolde's intense colour and rich, creamy use of paint here ultimately fuse into one another to create a timeless vision of the world. It is a vision that equates closely with that of some of the religious paintings that Nolde was also making at this time - an essentially pantheist vision of Nature in which, as perhaps is indicated in the simple but powerful beauty of this work, man, God and nature all appear to co-exist in spiritual harmony and dramatic colourful splendour.