mask still life iii
Painted just after leaving Die BrГјcke, The Last Supper met with great success. In 1912, it was acquired by the museum in Halle. It was not, however, without strong objection. Dr. William von Boden, a leading authority of the time, who had himself curated a collection of old master paintings in Berlin, strongly objected to its acquisition because of its non-traditional presentation.
The other, more abstract strain of Symbolism, represented by Paul Gauguin, combined color and Christian iconography in a new, expressive way that Nolde later made his own. Gauguin and his contemporary, Vincent van Gogh, who might be considered the forerunners of Expressionism, were both important influences upon Nolde. Like them, he does not use color to precisely render a photorealistic image, but rather to create a wistful look at an imagined scene. In his Matterhorn image, he uses an impressionistic approach to render the mountain but presents it as a face imbued with human emotion. By freeing the mountain from its grounding in nature, Nolde has established the basic premise for Expressionism as he later practiced it.
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There is silver blue, sky blue and thunder blue. Every colour holds within it a soul, which makes me happy or repels me, and which acts as a stimulus. To a person who has no art in him, colours are colours, tones tones… and that is all. All their consequences for the human spirit, which range between heaven to hell, just go unnoticed.
For regular readers of ‘painting of the week’ you’ll know that here at I.B.Tauris we have a bit of a thing for German Expressionism. So when it came to finding a Halloween themed painting Emil Nolde’s masks sprang to mind.
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Oh, that dense smile of the young human being who is turned away from the personages of existential drama and his own destiny – the young semi-hide from the adults their laughter at them – they are in charge of life.
As the two masks of our two kinds of laughter mark our destiny on the left part of the painting, the old man-the terrible with a metaphysical beard is located in an upper right part of the painting over the mask of our final condition (with giant ears opened as human arms greedy for embrace). The old despot with green-brown face is separated from the yellow mask of our adulthood and from our death-mask, with a bright yellow cord-rope. The death-mask refers not to death as something different from dying, but to very dying of a human being whose eyes are so greedy for the world of the living that they look like the eyes of a skull – the more greedy for the visual impressions a human being is, the less he is able to see. And his mouth is opened so wide as if he wants to swallow the whole world, as if, he is moaning for compassion, for air, for food. The same with the mask’s ears – the bigger they are – the deeper, the more absolute the deafness is. His/our ears are like opened hands ready to grab a world which is already no longer ours.