„Emil Nolde. A German Legend. The Artist during the Nazi Regime“ has welcomed 120,000 visitors

Hamburger Bahnhof – Nationalgalerie der Gegenwart

On 30 July 2019, Sophie Noblia became the 120,000th visitor to be welcomed at the exhibition "Emil Nolde - A German Legend. The Artist during the Nazi Regime" at the Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart - Berlin. The exhibition is open until 15 September 2019.

Sophie Noblia from Hasparren near Biarritz, France was welcomed to the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin. She is visiting Berlin with her husband Jérôme and their daughter Lore. At 3.30 pm the Noblias were received by Udo Kittelmann, Director of the Nationalgalerie of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Christian Ring, Director of the Nolde Stiftung Seebüll and one of the curators of the exhibition, and Dieter Scholz, curator at the Neue Nationalgalerie. They handed the lucky visitors a copy of the two-volume exhibition catalogue. They then received an introduction to the exhibition "Emil Nolde. A German Legend. The Artist during the Nazi Regime".

About the exhibition

The Expressionist Emil Nolde is arguably the most famous ‘degenerate artist’. No other artist had as many works confiscated, nor were their works as prominently displayed in the early venues of the Degenerate Art exhibition of 1937/38. How does Nolde’s ostracism and occupational ban fit with our knowledge that he was a National Socialist (Nazi) Party member, and that he kept faith with the regime until the end of the war? The art critic Adolf Behne underlined Nolde’s special status on the artist’s eightieth birthday in 1947, by pointedly referring to him as a “degenerate ‘degenerate’”. It has long been known that Emil Nolde was a party member. Yet no previous exhibition has thoroughly examined what this had to do with his art, or how the historical circumstances around National Socialism affected his artistic production.

The exhibition "Emil Nolde – A German Legend. The Artist during the Nazi Regime" is based on the results of a multi-year academic research project which for the first time was able to analyse the extensive holdings of the Nolde estate in Seebüll, uncovering so much new material that the conventional Nolde narrative must be revised. Thus, for example, the exhibition will present the famous "Unpainted Pictures" – the small-format watercolours Nolde was reputed to have secretly painted at Seebüll during his occupational ban – in a completely new light, explaining them as part of a long-standing practice of self-stylisation. The importance of this self-stylisation – and how strongly it has influenced our view of Nolde – will be demonstrated to visitors through a reconstruction of the ‘hall of paintings’ in Nolde’s studio house in Seebüll. This reconstruction will display the paintings and watercolours just as the ageing artist himself arranged them during the wartime winter of 1941/42.

The exhibition will present over 100 originals, some of which have not previously been shown, with references to Nolde’s writings and in the historical context of their creation, in order to reveal the multi-layered relationships between paintings, the artist’s self-presentation, his ostracism, and development of his legend.

  • What impact did the ‘Third Reich’ have on Emil Nolde's artistic work?
  • To what extent do some of his works, such as his depictions of mythic sacrificial scenes or Nordic people, correspond with his sympathies for the regime?
  • What effects did Nolde’s defamation and occupational ban have on his artistic practice and political outlook?
  • And how did the myths about Nolde develop in the post-war period?

To accompany the exhibition, a richly illustrated volume of essays and pictures (also in an English edition), as well a separate volume with a timeline and more than 100 documents, will be published by the Prestel Verlag. 

An exhibition by the Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, in cooperation with the Nolde Foundation Seebüll, curated by Bernhard Fulda, Christian Ring and Aya Soika, made possible by the Freunde der Nationalgalerie and supported by the Friede Springer Stiftung.