The tendency in Expressionist circles to define the two sexes as polar opposites takes visual form in a body of Nolde's work which can be loosely categorised as his presentation of couples. These paintings depict a man and a woman (or sometimes a group of men and a woman but very rarely a group of females and a single man) in works that suggest to the viewer a tableau or narrative. This sense that one is a voyeur to a scene of intense emotions is provoked by the tension that marks the relationships between the sexes. Writers on Nolde have commented repeatedly on what the artist felt to be one of the defining characteristics of both his inner life and his art: 'contrasts', 'fundamental duality' and 'elemental oppositions'. In a letter of 1901, Nolde declared that 'Duality has achieved a special position in my paintings and graphics. With or against each other, man and woman, joy and pain, God and Devil' (Emil Nolde, Jahre der Kämpfe, Cologne (5th edition), 1985, p. 200). In the series of etched Fantasies that he produced in Berlin in 1905, Nolde first symbolised the antithesis between individuals or groups of people through tableau-like depictions or, one of the Symbolists' favourite subjects, life and death in the form of an invalid and a skeleton. Although Nolde exaggerated the notion of antithesis in both his life and work, it is also evident that one of his central concerns was the way in which men and women interelate to each other.
Junges Paar is a work that epitomises Nolde's philosophical and aesthetical reflection on the antithesis of gender - a subject which lay at the core of his work in 1918. His intense oils of 1918 are dominated by the half figures of young couples, where the man is often in the background and the woman occupying centre stage, chromatically and formally more prominent than her companion. In Junges Paar, for which there is a study now in the Nolde Stiftung, Seebüll, the gender distinction does not affect the role of the figures on the canvas, whose Oriental features recall the stylised masks Nolde had brought back from Japan and the Papua Islands. The reciprocal nature of the couple's affection is suggested by the intimate closeness of the two heads, contrasting deeply with the tension in other Paar portraits, where the male/female relationship is rather that of predator/victim.