Emil Nolde (German, 1876-1956)
Oil on wood, Framed: 90.2 x 72.4 x 5.1 cm (35 1/2 x 28 1/2 x 2 in.); Unframed: 69 x 51 cm (27 3/16 x 20 1/16 in.). Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 2008.36
A leading artist of the German Expressionist group Die Brücke (The Bridge), Nolde criticized French modernism as overly intellectual and tepid. Seeking a new art of radically simplified form and emotive color, he found inspiration in Oceanic sculpture and the medieval paintings of Matthias Grünewald. Deeply religious, Nolde depicted biblical subjects with a deliberately crude, ferocious vigor intended to elevate spirituality over descriptive form. This painting may allude to two goldsmiths divinely selected to make religious objects, and whose work so pleased God that Moses blessed them (Exodus 35:30-43). Such images are not literal illustrations, Nolde explained, but visions that sprang from his own imagination, driven by the spontaneous release of emotion. "In art" he wrote, "I fight for unconscious creation. Labor destroys paintings."
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