But in 1937 Germany, paintings like these were labeled “degenerate” by a committee working for Third Reich minister Joseph Goebbels. Nolde was prohibited from painting further and his artworks were seized by the Nazi party. Museums were forced to purge these paintings, and some ultimately became part of the “Degenerate Art Exhibition” in Munich, which was meant to humiliate the artists whose works were displayed.
photo courtesy Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Dance was an art form that heavily interested Die BrГјcke artists. In many ways, it embodied important ideas about self-expression for the group. Its ability to be spontaneous, abstract and expressive without necessary concern for formalized technique fit with what the group was hoping to accomplish with their artworks. The accessibility of dance was also important; almost everyone can dance and use it as a form of self-expression, and the group was interested in finding new ways to relate to the masses.
As an etching, Joy In Life exemplifies how Nolde engaged with the medium in a new and dynamic way. Although he saw DГјrer’s masterful prints during his travels the previous decade, by this point, he was no longer interested in making prints from his etchings as exact reproductions. Influenced by the lithographs and prints of HonorГ© Daumier and Г‰douard Manet that he saw in Paris, he treated each print as a unique work. He experimented with technical aspects of the medium such as the amount of ink and paper types and pushed the medium to act beyond its original intention of easily duplicating an image with drawing-like precision. In doing so, and through teaching other artists his ideas and techniques, the nearly obsolete medium of printmaking, for which German art was known, saw a resurgence, and grew to become one of the most popular ways of proliferating art in early-20 th -century Germany.
Along with religion, the landscape exerted a fascination for Nolde. In paintings like Light Breaking Through (1950), the meteorological mood of northern Europe is captured with the full force of Nolde’s brush. Waves crash and churn; the oppression is tangible. It feels as though nature became Nolde’s metaphor for the turbulence of his time.
Großer Mohn (Rot, Rot, Rot) (Large Poppies [Red, Red, Red]) (1942), Emil Nolde. © Nolde Stiftung Seebüll
This new kind of a mask in Nolde’s pantheon of masks doesn’t look like a mask. It looks like two hands in gloves. Yes, these hands in antiseptic gloves is, indeed, a mask corresponding to a new, changing position of treating the national and/or behavioral minorities. “Traditional” masks are masks-faces. They are the essence of human facial expressions – of the life of human soul. But this new mask – a mask-hands, is the essence of human manipulative mind.
The mask in lower left corner of the canvass represents, it seems, the national and behavioral minorities. This mask is without any facial expression – without internality. It is not expressing the essence of the face, as Nolde’s masks usually are. The face which is normally coded by the mask, is blocked, eliminated – this is exactly what it means to belong to the minority group in a society of inequality – to wear face like mask. The human face in the depth of the mask is blocked from the perception as the unwelcome otherness.
We psychologically grow from our adolescence/youth to our adult perception of life between these two kinds of laughter. When we are laughing/crying – is it about our past laughter at adulthood? Or, perhaps, about this previous life back then when our yearnings we perceived as an action, in comparison with our life in adulthood which consists of conquering or being conquered? Or, are we laughing/crying about our past’s idealism and hopefulness? Our radiant narcissism? Our naïve judgmentalism? Our youthful moralism? Obviously, too many reasons for adulthood to laugh or/and cry about our childhood and youth.
But it’s not only dying that is blind. Youth physically can see (we notice the pupil of the “blueish eye” of the dark-red mask), but psychologically aren’t able to – young people are turned away from life passively but energetically rolling ahead. But the eyes of all the other inhabitants of life are not able to see, neither adulthood, nor the old man-the terrible or the dying human being. Through their eyes we can see the background of the world, and this includes god or the bearded wise man. And the brightest – shining sunny yellow on the face of the dying one is the last salute from the life.