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A German Legend. Emil Nolde during the Nazi RegimeA German Legend. Emil Nolde during the Nazi Regime

Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin
12. April – 15. September 2019
Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin<br />
						12. April – 15. September 2019

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 and 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.

Timed Tickets
Due to the high volume of interested visitors, single admission tickets for the exhibition Emil Nolde are being sold as timed tickets (available online and at cash registers). Access to the exhibition can currently not be guaranteed for day pass holders (day ticket for one museum).


Emil Nolde, Die Sünderin (Christus und die Sünderin), 1926, Öl auf Leinwand, 86 x 106 cm | Erworben mit Unterstützung des Vereins der Freunde der Nationalgalerie und des Landes Berlin © bpk / Nationalgalerie, SMB / Jörg P. Anders
Emil Nolde, Ohne Titel (Brennendes Gehöft), undatiert, Aquarell und Tusche auf Japanpapier, 16,4 x 12,3 cm | Nolde Stiftung Seebüll | © Nolde Stiftung Seebüll
Emil Nolde, "Gaut der Rote", undatiert, Aquarell und Tusche auf Japanpapier, 25,5 x 18,5 cm | Nolde Stiftung Seebüll | © Nolde Stiftung Seebüll