Emil Nolde (German, 1867-1956) Porträt eines Südseeinsulaners  (Executed in New Guinea in Spring 1914)

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Lot 20AR
Emil Nolde
(German, 1867-1956)
Porträt eines Südseeinsulaners

Sold for £ 37,500 (US$ 46,809) inc. premium
Emil Nolde (1867-1956)
Porträt eines Südseeinsulaners
signed 'Nolde' (lower right)
gouache, watercolour and India ink on rice paper
48.2 x 34.5cm (19 x 13 9/16in).
Executed in New Guinea in Spring 1914

Footnotes

  • The authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by Professor Dr. Manfred Reuther.

    Provenance
    Frederic J. Brand Collection, Dortmund (probably acquired directly from the artist by the 1950s).
    Thence by descent to the present owner.

    'New Guinea – you beautiful, wild country!' (E. Nolde quoted in E. Nolde, Mein Leben, Cologne, 2008, p. 326).

    Portrait eines Südseeinsulaners was painted during Emil Nolde's expedition to the South Seas as a part of the German New Guinea Expedition of 1914. This journey was one of the central events of the painter's life and left a lasting impression on his artistic development. The opportunity to travel to the then German colony of New Guinea was rare in those days, but it enabled the painter to pursue his strong interest in primitivism and fascination with 'primitive' people. From 1910 – 1912, before embarking on this journey, Nolde had spent numerous hours at Berlin's museum of ethnology studying and painting indigenous artefacts and objects.

    The Austrian art historian, Ingried Brugger, credits this voyage as decisive in the development of Nolde's means of expression. According to Brugger, Emil Nolde was akin to Gauguin and Picasso as 'one of the foremost protagonists of primitivism in Modern Art' (I. Brugger, et al., Emil Nolde und die Südsee, Freiburg, 2008, p. 50). While in New Guinea Nolde produced numerous portraits of the Papuan people. He deeply admired the way in which this indigenous community lived in harmony with nature and sought to create portrayals which emphasised their ancient culture and strong connection to the natural world: 'The bodiless heads float dark and monumental on untreated or partially coloured paper; the posture of their heads is compelling, the look and facial expressions are almost fossilised – as if centuries-old.' (I. Berger, et al., ibid., p. 52).

    By painting these portraits Nolde often built a strong personal connection with his sitters, which extended to a genuine concern for the changes in their welfare and living conditions due to colonialism, a situation which Nolde regarded as 'a brutal affair.' 'One thing is for sure' he stated 'we white Europeans are the curse to the coloured primitive people' (E. Nolde quoted in I. Brugger, et al., ibid, p. 52). In his memoirs, Mein Leben, Nolde later described how this voyage had a profound effect upon him. Returning to Germany in 1914, on the eve of the First World War, Nolde faced many difficult years ahead, but in his mind and art he often returned to the paradisiac island of New Guinea and his meaningful encounters with its indigenous people.
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