Herbstwolken, Friesland. 1929. Oil on canvas. Urban 1085. Signed in lower right. 73.5 x 106.5 cm (28.9 x 41.9 in).
PROVENANCE: Dr. Carl Henes, Hagen (acquired directly from the artist in 1929). Bernhard Sprengel, Hanover (acquired from aforementioned through the agency of the art traders Hans Trojanski and Günther Franke in 1941). Private collection (gifted from aforementioned).
EXHIBITION: Emil Nolde, Kunstverein Hamburg, August 7 - September 21, 1947, no. 18. Emil Nolde, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hanover, October - November 1948, no. 19. XXV. Biennial, German Pavillon Venice, June 08 - October 15, 1950, no. 125 (verso with label). Emil Nolde, Kunsthalle Mannheim, April 20 - May 21, 1952, no. 8. Emil Nolde, Kunsthalle Kiel, June 22 -July 27, 1952, no. 25. Deutsche Kunst. Meisterwerke des 20. Jahrhunderts, Kunstmuseum Luzern, July 4 - October 2, 1953, no. 113. Documenta 1, Fridericianum, Kassel, July 15 - September 18, 1955, no. 498. 100 Years of German Painting. 1850-1950, Tate Gallery London, April 25 - June 10, 1956, no. 204. Emil Nolde Gedächtnisausstellung (Memorial Exhibition), Kunstverein Hamburg, April 27 - June 16, 1957/ Museum Folkwang, Essen, June 29 - September 1, 1957/ Haus der Kunst, Munich, September 24 - December 1, 1957, no. 147. Emil Nolde, Schloss Charlottenborg, Copenhagen, April 18 - May 4, 1958, no. 67. Emil Nolde, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, April 18 - May 4, 1958, no. 48. Emil Nolde, Kunstverein Frankfurt am Main, August 1 - September 15, 1958, no. 32. Emil Nolde (1867-1956), Kunsthaus Zürich, October 11 - November 9, 1958, no. 53. Emil Nolde - Ölgemälde-Aquarelle-Zeichnungen, Kunstverein Hanover, July 16 - September 3, 1961, no. 45. Collection Sprengel, Kunstverein Hanover, Kestnergesellschaft Hanover, Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum, October 10 - November 28, 1965, no. 230. Emil Nolde. Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen und Druckgraphik, Kunsthalle Cologne, February 10 - April 20, 1973, no. 95. Emil Nolde und die Sammlung Sprengel 1937-1956. Geschichte einer Freundschaft, Sprengel Museum, Hanover, April 18 - August 22, 1999.
LITERATURE: Hans Platte: Malerei. Reihe: Die Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts. München, Hamburg 1957, p.184 (illu.) Emil Nolde. Memorial exhibition (exhibition catalog). Kunstverein, Hamburg, April 27 - June 16, 1957, no.147 (illu.) Art calendar. Inter Nationes, Stuttgart 1971 (color illu.) Westermann texte deutsch. Revised edition R7 (school textbook). Westermann, Brunswick 1983 (color illu. on p. 169) Markus Heinzelmann: Emil Nolde und die Sammlung Sprengel 1937 bis 1956. Geschichte einer Freundschaft. Hanover 1999, pp. 43f, 68, 81, 245, 285, with color illu. on p. 98. Vanessa-Maria Voigt: Kunsthändler und Sammler der Moderne im Nationalsozialismus. Die Sammlung Sprengel 1934 bis 1945. Berlin 2007, pp. 53, 175-177, with color illu. plate 2 Maike Steinkamp, Ute Haug (editor): Werke und Werte. Über das Handeln und Sammeln von Kunst im Nationalsozialismus. Series: Schriften der Forschungsstelle "Entartete Kunst", volume V. Berlin 2010, p. 140 with illu. on p.141.
”Herbstwolken, Friesland“ (Autumn Clouds, Frisia). The view from the window of Nolde’s residence in Seebüll - and so much more than that. Nature, in this landscape painting, is elevated to a mystical level, colors and subject lead independent lives, forms become suggestive fields of power of human sensation. Gently floating contrasting color fields can be found in the lower part of the picture. Green marshland nestles up against the setting sun’s orange reflections on the water, while wild forces of nature rant on the sky: A bright orange glow, rendered in powerful brushstrokes, whirls above the deep, sulfur-yellow horizon that is heavy with rain, black-gray towering clouds side by side with glistening azure, creating a scene heavily charged with an abundance of associations. Is this not a reference to an approach to nature brought to life that has its art-historical roots in the late Middle Ages? Do the cloud formations not resemble two fire-spitting creatures? And is it not a possible interpretation to see their fight as an allegory to the uncertain days the world was in when the work was made? Some time between the bloody upheaval in Berlin in May 1929 (Blutmai) and the stock market crash commencing on Black Thursday in late October 1929? Whatever it is the observer believes to find in these forces of nature, the work is a direct confrontation with Emil Nolde’s mystical concept of nature: ”Everything primal captures my senses. The vast thundering sea still is in a primal state, the same applies to wind, sun, firmament, which are still the same as they used to be fifty thousand years ago.“ (Emil Nolde, Mein Leben, Cologne 2008, p. 225). A very distinguished collector also treasured Nolde‘s pictures of nature: Bernhard Sprengel. For the founding father of the Sprengel-Museum in Hannover, the opprobrious exhibition “Degenerate Art“ from 1937 meant nothing less than an awakening moment upon which he fell for Nolde‘s explosive landscapes. Under the most adverse conditions, and once again with true bravery, Sprengel compiled an outstanding collection. He saved many masterpieces by his friend and favorite painter Emil Nolde from falling victim to destruction through the National Socialists. “Herbstwolken, Friesland“ became part of his collection in 1941. The collector showed his deep appreciation for the art trader Franke, who helped Sprengel to obtain the work from the private ownership of the surgeon Carl Henes in a letter: “I am convinced that this picture will bring a lot of joy“ (December 18, 1941). Until the end of the war Sprengel had to hide “Herbstwolken, Friesland“, just like the other works in his collection, from the Nazis. But he was eventually able to show his treasures. “Herbstwolken, Friesland“ was soon on display at numerous exhibitions, among them such epochal international shows like the Venice Biennial in 1950, the first “documenta“ (1955) or “100 Years of German Painting“ at Tate Gallery London (1956) – stations of a liberated masterpiece.