Emil Nolde: A Printmaker from Peasant Roots

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This essay is one of five that makes up the catalogue to a major retrospective on Emil Nolde at the National Gallery of Ireland and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, held in 2018. Weikop’s essay establishes the importance of Nolde as a printmaker, exploring his connections to other artists of the Brücke circle, and to Edvard Munch, as well as his close relationship to important critics and chroniclers of Expressionism such as Gustav Schiefler. The essay starts by examining the difficult early reception of Nolde’s prints in Germany, and the curious fact that his work was first acquired by the British Museum rather than any German public art institution. It explores Nolde's self-identification as being of ‘peasant stock’ with respect to his predilection for the woodcut in particular, a medium with a long history in German visual culture, and one with certain völkisch associations. Weikop argues that Nolde’s emphasis on the ‘primitive’ authenticity of the handprinted woodcut was a way for him to proclaim his kinship with old rural artisan and peasant cultures against the standardising technologies of industrialisation, and it was this ‘authenticity’ that was celebrated by his critical interpreters. The essay also considers how the National Socialists ignored the Heimat qualities of Nolde’s prints, instead citing his enthusiasm for ‘un-German’ tribal cultures as evidence of his ‘degeneracy’. And yet Nolde, a card carrying member of the National Socialist party, did not see his artistic responses to ethnographic objects from New Guinea or Palau as ‘polluting’ his sense of ‘Germanness’ at all. Furthermore, the essay explores Nolde’s experimentation in other techniques of printmaking, in etching and lithography, stressing that the incredible colour combinations of large-format lithograph sequences was quite visionary, long anticipating how post-1945 artists such as Andy Warhol would similarly play with colour variations in screenprints.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEmil Nolde
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
PublisherNational Galleries of Scotland
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)978-1-911054-15-3
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018


  • Emil Nolde
  • Expressionism
  • German Art


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