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Emil Nolde

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Biography

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1867

Emil Nolde – actually Hans Emil Hansen – was born on 7 August as the fourth son of the farmer Niels Hansen and his wife Hanna Christine in the village of Nolde near Tondern, on the German-Danish border in what was then German territory. The entry in the church register inadvertently records his birthday as 20 August. The colloquial language is Low Danish, High German is spoken at school.

1884-1888

Against his father’s wishes, Emil Hansen completes an apprenticeship as a wood carver’s assistant and draughtsman at the Sauermann furniture factory and carving school in Flensburg.

1888/89

During his travelling years, Emil Hansen works as a carver in furniture factories in Munich and Karlsruhe, where he also attends the School of Arts and Crafts and secretly takes the nude class.

1890

Hansen finds employment in a Berlin furniture factory, where he works until his father’s death at the end of December 1891.

1892-1897

Hansen becomes a specialist teacher of industrial drawing and modelling at the Museum of Industry and Trade in St. Gallen. Beginning of a lifelong friendship with his drawing pupil Hans Fehr, who embarks on a career as a legal historian. First landscape watercolours and drawings. In 1894, Hansen began a series of grotesque depictions of mountain peaks in the guise of legends, which he had distributed in large numbers as ‘mountain postcards’. After his dismissal in St.Gallen, his financial success secured his livelihood in the early years as a freelance artist.

1898

Rejected by the Munich Academy of Fine Arts under Franz von Stuck. Hansen attends the private painting schools of Friedrich Fehr and Adolf Hölzel.

1899

Journey to Paris with self-study at the Louvre and visit to the private Académie Julian.

Autumn 1900

Rents a studio in Copenhagen. Paints an early series of religious pictures.

1901 /02

Hansen spends the summer in the fishing village of Lild Strand on the north coast of Jutland. There he created fantastic drawings of sandpipers, night walkers and strange natural creatures. He maintains a lively correspondence with the young Danish actress Ada Vilstrup, a pastor’s daughter.

1902

Married Ada (Adamine Frederikke) Vilstrup (born 20 September 1879) on 25 February. In the course of the marriage, he gives up the name Hansen and takes the name of his birthplace, Nolde. Moves from Copenhagen to Berlin. The first volume of his memoirs ends with this chapter of his life (Das eigene Leben, 1931).

1903-1905

Nolde spends the winters in Berlin and the summers on the Baltic island of Alsen. The financial hardship is great. The artist works in a board studio on the beach. On 22 September 1904, the name is officially changed to Nolde. After Ada’s health collapses, Hans Fehr enables the couple to spend six months in Italy in 1904/05. In autumn 1905, the etching series ‘Phantasies’ is created. In September 1905, first Berlin exhibition in the art salon of Paul Cassirer, whom Nolde would later vilify as a Jew.

1906-1908

From February 1906, member of the Brücke artists’ association, which Nolde wants to rename the “Verein jungdeutscher Künstler”. After leaving in November 1907, repeated unsuccessful attempts to found his own group of artists; among other things, meetings with his admired role model Edvard Munch. Member of the Berlin Secession from 1908. Visits his friend Hans Fehr in Cospeda near Jena, where he discovers the technique of watercolour painting for himself. Journey to Sweden in autumn 1908.

1909

During the summer months in the fishing village of Ruttebüll, he creates the religious paintings The Last Supper, Pentecost and Mockery.

1910

Major exhibitions take place in Hamburg, Essen, Jena and Hagen. Paintings of Hamburg harbour. Journey to Brussels. Nolde visits James Ensor in Ostend. Moves to Tauentzienstraße 8 in Berlin (until 1929). After a dispute with Max Liebermann, Nolde is expelled from the Berlin Secession against Liebermann’s vote; Nolde will later reinterpret the expulsion in anti-Semitic terms. He joins the New Secession (until the end of 1911).

1911

The Hamburg art collector Gustav Schiefler, who has known Nolde since 1906, publishes the first volume of the catalogue raisonné of his prints. Nolde produces a large number of studies at the Berlin Ethnological Museum, which are developed into numerous paintings in the following years.

1911/12

The nine-part painting The Life of Christ, Nolde’s main work, is created. His religious paintings bring him great public attention, both boundless admiration and fierce criticism.

1913

The purchase of two Nolde paintings (Flower Garden with Figures and The Last Supper) for the Municipal Museum in Halle by Max Sauerlandt is followed by a public debate on the role of modern art in museums.

1913/14

From October, the Noldes travel via Moscow, Siberia, Korea, Japan and China to the ‘German protectorates’ in German New Guinea. As unofficial participants in the ‘Medical-Demographic German New Guinea Expedition’, they are able to utilise the colonial infrastructure on site. Adventurous return journey, especially after the outbreak of war in August 1914, from the Suez Canal via France and Switzerland to Germany. Enthusiasm for the war. The second volume of his memoirs ends with 1914 (Jahre der Kämpfe, 1934). Nolde dedicates a separate volume of memoirs to his journey to the South Seas (Welt und Heimat, 1936/1965).

1915

88 paintings are created on Alsen, including pictures after sketches from the South Seas and religious motifs such as Entombment.

1916

Moves to the farmhouse Utenwarf near the North Sea coast for summer holidays (until 1926).

1919

Membership of the Berlin Labour Council for Art. Nolde creates a series of fantastic watercolours on the Hallig Hooge, which are similar in format and motif to the later ‘Unpainted Pictures’.

1920

After the referendum in the border region, Utenwarf becomes Danish, making Nolde a Danish citizen, which he would not change for the rest of his life.

1921

With Nolde’s active co-operation, Max Sauerlandt writes his first monograph, Emil Nolde. Travels to London, Plymouth, Paris, Toulouse, Barcelona, Granada, Madrid and Toledo. In August, exhibition of religious paintings in St Catherine’s Church in Lübeck.

1924

Travelled to Venice, Florence, Zurich and Vienna.

1925

Nolde develops an elaborate marsh drainage plan for the area around Utenwarf, which is rejected by the authorities.

1926/27

Abandonment of Utenwarf due to changes in the landscape. Purchase of the Seebüll mound a few kilometres to the south (in Germany). From 1927 Construction of the Seebüll house and studio according to his own designs and creation of a flower garden. The studio is built first, followed by the residential building, to which a storey is added in 1937 above the so-called workshop: the picture room.

1927

Celebrations for Nolde’s 60th birthday: comprehensive anniversary exhibition in Dresden, followed by exhibitions in Hamburg, Kiel, Essen and Wiesbaden. Awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Kiel. Publication of a commemorative publication with contributions from friends and patrons, an edition of letters edited by Max Sauerlandt and the second volume of the catalogue raisonné of prints by Gustav Schiefler.

1929

Purchase of the painting The Sinner (1926) by the Berlin National Gallery. The construction of a house in Berlin-Dahlem according to plans by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe fails due to financial reasons. Move within Berlin to Bayernallee 10 in Charlottenburg.

1930

Nolde’s open letter on the independence of the Nationalgalerie’s acquisition policy, defence of Ludwig Justi’s administration. Summer/autumn: stay on Sylt, acquaintance with the Jewish sculptor Margarete Turgel, which continues after 1945. Work on the memoirs manuscript Das eigene Leben.

1931

Ada and Emil Nolde attend Paul Schultze-Naumburg’s lecture, Kampf um die Kunst. Admission to the Prussian Academy of Arts. Publication of the first volume of his autobiography Das eigene Leben. Nolde’s self-narrative of his development as an artist in the years 1867 to 1902 creates an alternative image to biographies of German Impressionists. He emphasises his rural origins and takes up many of the narrative patterns of his admirers. Nolde included small watercolours with the special editions. Today, these are regarded as the beginning of the series of works that later became famous under the term ‘Unpainted Pictures’. Initially, Nolde called them his ‘small colour drawings’ and ‘small sheets’, which became ‘picture ideas’, ‘picture drafts’ and ‘picture sketches’, and finally the term ‘unpainted pictures’ prevailed. This term initially refers to their function as possible models for paintings. Later, Nolde and his executors used it to form the narrative that they were created in secret exclusively during the period of persecution from 1938 to 1945.

1932

Heated debate about the travelling exhibition Neuere deutsche Kunst (Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger, Malmö, Copenhagen and Cologne); Nolde’s statement in Museum der Gegenwart, in which he describes German Impressionism as ‘hybrid art’.

The last free Reichstag election on 31 July ends with strong gains for the NSDAP, which becomes by far the strongest party in the Reichstag with 37.3%, without achieving an absolute majority. The National Socialists receive almost 65% in the district of Südtondern and over 85% in Neukirchen – to which Nolde’s Seebüll belongs.

1933

The Nolde couple react enthusiastically to the National Socialists coming to power and hope that Adolf Hitler will appoint Nolde as a state artist. In a letter to Max Sauerlandt in April, Nolde calls for a separation between ‘Jewish and German art, as well as between a German-French mixture and purely German art’. The emphasis on the ‘Nordic’ and ‘German’, which became the leitmotif of Nolde’s positive reviews from 1933 onwards, prompted derisive attacks from national reactionary art critics. The biblical figure paintings in particular became a target. Nolde reacted to this, parallel to his increasingly accentuated anti-Semitism, by no longer painting religious oil paintings after 1934. Religious motifs were increasingly replaced by those from the world of Nordic legends, which had always fascinated him.

In May, Nolde’s membership application to the nationalist-minded Kampfbund für deutsche Kultur was rejected; at almost the same time, Nolde turned down the offer to leave the Prussian Academy of Arts (as he did again in 1937). The painter becomes the central point of reference in the bitter debates about the role of Expressionism in the Nazi state, which reach their climax in early summer. The exhibition 30 German Artists (with two paintings by Nolde) organised by the National Socialist German Student Association (NSDStB) at the Ferdinand Möller Gallery was banned, but reopened shortly afterwards without the participation of the NSDStB. During these months, Nolde draws up a plan, the details of which have not survived, which envisages a territorial solution to the so-called ‘Jewish question’ – the resettlement of the Jews. He denounces fellow painter Max Pechstein as a Jew to a ministry official – presumably in order to disqualify him as a candidate for the management of the United State Schools for Fine and Applied Arts in Berlin – and is not prepared to retract the false allegation. With the help of staff from the National Gallery, Nolde’s painting Ripe Sunflowers (1932) and two watercolours are placed in the flat of NSDAP foreign press chief Ernst (Putzi) Hanfstaengl in Munich, as well as two watercolours of flowers with Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, in order to win Hitler over to Nolde’s art in passing, so to speak – both actions remain unsuccessful. On 9 November, Nolde is Heinrich Himmler’s guest of honour at the celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of the ‘Hitler Putsch’ in Munich. On 15 November, the Nolde couple take part in the ceremonial opening of the Reich Chamber of Culture in the Berlin Philharmonic Hall.

1934

Successful watercolour exhibition at the Möller Gallery in Berlin (followed by exhibitions in Düren, Hamburg and Hanover). Nolde is hospitalised for six weeks due to thrombosis, followed by phlebitis. This is followed by an extended stay at a spa in Bad Kissingen. In August, Nolde confirms his support for Hitler’s role as Führer by signing the ‘Appeal of the Creative Artists’, including Ernst Barlach, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Erich Heckel and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The following month, as a Danish citizen, Nolde becomes a member of the National Socialist Working Group of North Schleswig (NSAN), which is brought into line the following year with the founding of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party of North Schleswig (NSDAP-N). In November, the second volume of the autobiography Years of Struggle is published, covering the years 1902 to 1914. Contemporaries notice the similarity between the title and Hitler’s Mein Kampf. The anti-Semitic reinterpretation of his conflict with Max Liebermann and the Berlin Secession attracts particular attention. On a Rembrandt-Verlag advertising leaflet, Nolde is praised as a pioneer ‘against the oppressive dictatorship of the Jewish art trade and the dominance of French Impressionist circles’.

1935/36

The Folkwang-Museumsverein in Essen purchases almost all of Nolde’s prints, totalling around 455 sheets. This was done with the approval of the director Klaus Graf von Baudissin, who was loyal to the Nazi regime. In the summer of 1937, Baudissin was commissioned to accompany the visits of the ‘Commission for Works of German Decay Art since 1910’ (‘Degenerate Art’) to the museums on behalf of the Ministry of Education.

In December 1935, Nolde is operated on for stomach cancer in Hamburg-Eppendorf and remains hospitalised there until March 1936. He then travelled to Switzerland to recuperate. In the second half of the year, Nolde works on his third volume of memoirs, covering the period from 1913 to 1926 (published in 1965 under the title Welt und Heimat), and prepares the publication of his correspondence with his long-time friend Hans Fehr.

1937/38

Visit to his collector Friedrich Döhlemann, banker and treasurer of the Haus der Deutschen Kunst, in Munich in February 1937, guided tour of the Haus der Deutschen Kunst, followed by a holiday in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Nolde’s 70th birthday is honoured with exhibitions at Günther Franke (Munich), Ferdinand Möller (Berlin) and Rudolf Probst (Mannheim). The success of these exhibitions is favourable for the artist and leads to numerous sales.

In German museums, 1052 works by Nolde are confiscated, including the 455 works from the Folkwang Museum acquired two years earlier.

In July, the propaganda exhibition Degenerate Art opens in Munich with 33 of Nolde’s paintings. His works are pilloried as decaying art. Shortly afterwards, the modern department in the Kronprinzenpalais in Berlin is closed for good. Cancellation of the major celebrations to mark Nolde’s 70th birthday in Seebüll; premature closure of the major birthday retrospective at Rudolf Probst in Mannheim. Nolde again (as in May 1933) successfully rejects the suggestion that he leave the Prussian Academy of Arts, citing his party membership.

From the summer of 1937, Nolde wrote a series of letters to Nazi officials in which he described himself as a proclaimer of the ‘world significance of National Socialism’ and characterised his art as ‘German, strong, austere and heartfelt’ – including to Minister of Culture Bernhard Rust and Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels – in order to obtain the return of the paintings confiscated from his private collection. Nolde’s friend, the lawyer Hans Fehr, contacted State Secretary Ernst von Weizsäcker at the Foreign Office to draw attention to Nolde’s status as a foreigner. The law on the ‘confiscation of products of degenerate art’ of 31 May 1938 made it possible for Nolde, as a Danish citizen, to reclaim the works confiscated from his private collection for the Munich exhibition.

In 1938, Nolde painted Gaut the Red, the first of three Viking paintings that summer, based on one of his small-format watercolours. From the end of 1938 onwards, none of his paintings were included in the exhibition Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art), which travelled on in a different arrangement. On 6 December 1938, Nolde sent an anti-Semitic statement to NSDAP Reich press chief Otto Dietrich in order to obtain a correction in the press; shortly before, he had been listed in a newspaper article under the title ‘The enemy in his own country – Jews as cultural Bolshevists’. On 8 December, a short press release on Nolde stated that he was ‘not a Jew’, but even ‘P.g.’, a party comrade.

1939

In spring, the Nolde couple visit the depot of ‘degenerate art’ in Schönhausen Palace in the north of Berlin; Ada reads from her memoirs there to prove Nolde’s loyalty to the Nazis. In May, Ada’s brother, the Copenhagen art dealer Aage Vilstrup, is able to acquire eleven of the Nolde paintings confiscated from museum collections for foreign currency; a further seven are sold abroad by the Ministry of Propaganda at the auction in the Fischer Gallery in Lucerne in June 1939; The Sinner is bought by Hans Fehr. The couple reacted enthusiastically to the start of the Second World War. Fearing war damage, Nolde immediately stored 91 paintings on a farm at the mouth of the Elbe.

1940

Nolde had been recording his thoughts on art, God and world events on small pieces of paper for some time. Now he begins to date these aphorisms – the ‘words in the margins’. In this year, he achieves the highest sales revenue of his career. He writes a letter to Hitler (which has not survived) in which he again emphasises his agreement with the regime. It is unclear whether the letter was sent and reached Hitler; there is no known response from the Reich Chancellery. Due to the increasing number of air raids on Berlin, the couple spend part of the winter in Seebüll for the first time. In December, the Reichskammer der bildenden Künste (Reich Chamber of Fine Arts) demands that Nolde submit more recent works on the basis of an ‘order concerning the sale of inferior art products’.

1941

In February, almost 100 works of art are confiscated from the Düsseldorf gallery owner Alex Vömel, including 21 paintings by Nolde that are on consignment. After Himmler’s deputy Reinhard Heydrich complains to the Ministry of Propaganda about the amount of Nolde’s income, Nolde’s exclusion from the Reichskunstkammer is already decided internally, weeks before the artist submits a selection of 4 paintings and 18 watercolours to the ‘Committee for the Assessment of Inferior Art Products’ in June 1941. For fear of air raids and possible confiscation, Nolde stored many more works with acquaintances from June onwards.

On 23 August, Nolde is informed of his exclusion. The official reason was artistic unreliability; internally, Nolde’s high income (around 80,000 RM for the 1940 tax year) was criticised. As a result, he is banned from any professional or part-time activity in the field of fine arts, which means a ban on sales, exhibitions and publications. He also lost his right to a limited supply of painting materials. Friends help him out with paints and canvas in future. Nolde is worried that this exclusion means a ‘ban on painting’. On 20 November, the Reichskunstkammer informs Nolde that the works submitted for examination will remain confiscated – they have been lost since then – and reminds him of his duty to submit his works to the Chamber in future before he ‘transmits them to the public’. According to Nolde’s legal adviser Hans Fehr, this meant that the ‘painting ban’ of the earlier letter had been lifted (letter dated 17 March 1942).

From 1942 to 1944, Nolde created eleven flower paintings and a figure painting. From the end of the year, the couple produced around fifty typescripts of the memoirs of their South Sea journey Welt und Heimat, which they sent out to friends.

1942

The painter Dieter Hohly from Stuttgart is among the forty or so young soldiers at the front to whom the Nolde couple regularly send newsletters. At the beginning of February, he spends a week in Seebüll, where he helps with the production of the typescript of Nolde’s South Sea memoirs. Hohly then writes a detailed report on his visit with numerous sketches, including a detailed reproduction of the hanging in the ‘picture room’ in Seebüll. In the spring, Ada and Emil Nolde travel to Vienna with a selection of watercolours in order to obtain a lifting of the professional ban from Reich Governor Baldur von Schirach. The meeting does not materialise, but von Schirach promises to stand up for Nolde’s art. Ada has to spend several months in hospital in Eppendorf. The couple’s correspondence during two hospital stays lasting several months – both in this year and in 1943 – provides an insight into the Noldes’ world view and their growing anti-Semitism.

1943

In March, Nolde gives Ilse Göring-Diels, wife of former Gestapo chief Rudolf Diels and sister-in-law and niece of Hermann Göring, five paintings, including Twilight Hour at the Harbour (1924), Sea and White Clouds (1937) and Burning Castle (1940), as well as six watercolours for the Diels’ villa in Berlin-Dahlem, presumably to convince Hermann Göring of Nolde’s art. A year later, the three paintings mentioned were taken to Mauterndorf Castle, Hermann Göring’s Austrian residence. They have been lost since the end of the war. The works remaining in Dahlem were destroyed in an air raid in autumn 1944.

From April to June, Ada is once again in Eppendorf Hospital. There she begins translating Das eigene Leben into Danish. Following the announcement of the discovery of the mass graves near Katyn, where Polish officers were shot and buried by the Soviet NKVD, National Socialist war propaganda reaches its anti-Semitic peak from April onwards. This is also reflected in Nolde’s aphorisms, which the artist later wanted to publish – together with some of his ‘unpainted pictures’.

After Easter 1943, he sends Ada a letter containing four of the small pieces of paper he uses for his aphorisms, in which he inscribes himself in a major world and religious-historical process. They culminate Nolde’s longstanding self-stylisation as a misunderstood pioneer against Judaism. They are the culmination of his anti-Semitic remarks. In another of these small notes from May, he elaborates on his ideas about the world war as a ‘Jewish war’.

Shortly before a devastating air raid on Hamburg, Ada is released to Seebüll. During the Second World War, Nolde was able to continue working as an artist in secluded Seebüll – despite being banned from his profession and a shortage of materials – unlike many of his fellow artists whose studios were bombed out.

1944

In February, Nolde appeals to the newly appointed director of the Berlin United State Schools, Otto von Kursell, citing his party membership and asks him in vain to support the lifting of the ban on his profession. On 15 February, bombs destroy Nolde’s Berlin studio flat; around 3,000 prints, watercolours and drawings as well as works from his collection by Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Oskar Kokoschka, Lyonel Feininger and Ernst Josephson, among others, go up in flames.

1945

Until shortly before the end of the war, Nolde hoped for the ‘final victory’. The aphorisms that Nolde wrote from the spring onwards, some of which were backdated, bear witness to his subsequent attempt to distance himself from Hitler and the Nazi dictatorship. A note on his ‘Words in the margins’ shows that after May he destroyed numerous pieces of paper with thoughts on politics and world affairs. In the summer, British officers visit Seebüll and show an interest in Nolde’s art. Mr and Mrs Nolde ask Joachim von Lepel (1913-1962), who had until recently been stationed at the front, to assist them; he agrees.

1946-1955

On 13 August 1946, the Kiel denazification committee exonerated Nolde despite his party membership, interpreting the Nazi rejection of Nolde’s art as a ‘rejection of the regime’. After initial drafts since the 1930s, the final testamentary disposition of the future foundation is made. Ada Nolde died on 2 November 1946. On 22 February 1948, Nolde married the 26-year-old Jolanthe Erdmann (9 October 1921 – 13 June 2010), daughter of his friend, the composer and pianist Eduard Erdmann. Nolde continued to work on his memoirs after the end of the war, including writing the final chapters of his fourth volume of memoirs, which was published in 1967 under the title Reisen, Ächtung, Befreiung. His handwritten preparatory work illustrates the development and dramatisation of the persecution and victim narrative. For example, the visit of an art-loving Gestapo officer in the winter of 1940/41 – i.e. before the professional ban was imposed – is recast as a Gestapo inspection visit. Nolde invented the narrative for his ‘Unpainted Pictures’ that they were created during the ‘painting ban’, ‘secretly’, in a ‘small, half-hidden room’. There are hardly any objections to the exaggerated portrayal of Nolde exclusively as a victim of the Nazi dictatorship, which is widespread. Only Adolf Behne labelled the painter a ‘degenerate “degenerate”’ on the occasion of an exhibition on his 80th birthday in 1947. In the following years, Nolde received numerous awards and honours, including the Stefan Lochner Medal of the City of Cologne (1949) and the Graphic Art Prize of the XXVI Venice Biennale (1952). In 1952, Nolde was one of the first recipients of the newly founded Order ‘Pour le Mérite for Science and the Arts’. He is represented several times at the Venice Biennale (1950, 1952, 1956) and in Kassel at the documenta 1955.

1956/57

Emil Nolde dies in Seebüll on 13 April 1956. The Seebüll Ada and Emil Nolde Foundation, established in his will, is recognised as a foundation with legal capacity under civil law on 12 June 1956. As stipulated in Nolde’s will, his long-time confidant Joachim von Lepel becomes director.

The foundation is tasked with managing Nolde’s extensive estate in Seebüll in the spirit of the artist, preserving his work for posterity and publicising it worldwide. The first annual exhibition in the Nolde House opens in 1957.

1958

A Nolde monograph by art historian Werner Haftmann is published on the initiative of the foundation. In the publication Emil Nolde, Haftmann also popularises the story of the allegedly secret creation of the ‘Unpainted Pictures’. In the new publication of Jahre der Kämpfe (Years of Struggle), which appears this year, various grossly anti-Semitic passages are deleted.

1961

The small ‘Unpainted Pictures’ are increasingly exhibited in Germany and abroad and attract great press and public interest – also because of the story of the alleged ‘painting ban’ that frames them.

1963

Haftmann publishes the illustrated book Unpainted Pictures, which brings together 40 of the small-format watercolours in the highest print quality with 70 selected ‘words in the margins’ and in which he deepens the narrative of the resistant artist who had finally turned his back on the National Socialists. Like the monograph from 1958, this book also contributes to the dissemination of the narrative of the ‘persecuted artist’.

1965/1967

In the publication of Nolde’s South Sea travel memoirs, Welt und Heimat (1965), and his account of the years of National Socialism, Reisen, Ächtung, Befreiung, which was published in 1967 to mark the artist’s 100th birthday, the then director of the foundation, Martin Urban (1913-2002, director from 1963 to 1992), together with the publisher Karl Gutbrod of DuMont Schauberg, made a series of interventions in order to ‘eliminate certain passages that had become obsolete due to historical developments or that seem out of place today’.

1967

Haftmann becomes director of Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie. On the occasion of Nolde’s 100th birthday celebrations in Seebüll, Walter Jens, Professor of Rhetoric in Tübingen and, as a writer, one of the leading moral authorities in the Federal Republic of Germany, gives the keynote speech, which is self-published by the Foundation and published and revised by Jens on various occasions. Jens castigated Nolde’s ‘antithetical-raw ideology’, his ‘ideals of purity’ and rejected his self-conception as a painter ‘who was supposed to have been a visionary of genius and nothing else’. In the face of this Germanism, it was an ‘act of reverence’ to protect the artist from ‘the most dangerous attack, self-interpretation’. For in his art, Nolde had refuted himself; that is why ‘both sides of Nolde must be brought to light’: ‘naivety and refinement, conservatism and modernity, fantasy and compositional calculation, vision and the calculation of antitheses, gestural references and angular correspondences’. It was therefore necessary to bid farewell to the ‘fascistically falsified, overly Nolde-like Nolde’. Jens’ speech served as a welcome justification for the foundation to protect Nolde from Nolde.

1968

Siegfried Lenz’s novel Deutschstunde, published in autumn, becomes a bestseller; translations into more than 20 languages soon follow, followed by a film adaptation in 1971. It tells the fictional story of the surveillance of a painting ban during National Socialism by the village policeman, who – although a friend of the painter – persuades his son to spy on the artist in order to convict him of working illegally. The painter Max Ludwig Nansen (based on Nolde, whose birth name is Hansen) was obviously based on Haftmann’s portrayal of Nolde, while the fictitious locations of Rugbüll and Bleekenwarf are just as obviously based on the village of Ruttebüll and Nolde’s residences of Utenwarf and Seebüll. Many of the paintings described in the novel can be found depicted in Haftmann’s work – and the ‘Invisible Pictures’ in Deutschstunde were Lenz’s appropriation of the ‘Unpainted Pictures’. Many readers transferred Nansen into Nolde and read the novel as a biography of Nolde – unintentionally by Lenz. This reinforced Nolde’s victim myth, which was cultivated by the Seebüll Ada and Emil Nolde Foundation and was given a special place in the cultural memory of the Federal Republic of Germany.

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