The moored boat - sunset

Emil NOLDE: artist

Not On Display

About the work

Nolde was the name of the village in Schleswig where the Danish parents of Emil Hansen had a farm and in 1904 the artist changed his name to become Emil Nolde. There was little artistic encouragement for him in the farm life and he was sent to a woodcarving school and then worked as a furniture designer.

As a young man he taught drawing in Switzerland for six years until sales of reproductions from small watercolours of mountains with mythological overtones provided enough income for him to give up teaching and concentrate on painting at the age of thirtyone.

He disliked cities and society; love of nature was the source of his art, turning often to gardens and the colours of flowers. He said, 'I long for the day when I will have found colour harmonies - my harmonies. Colours can be so beautiful, so beautiful - like music.'

The constant illness of Nolde's wife Ada added a tragic element to their devotion to each other. For years they lived in a small house on the island of Alsen, leaving that retreat for another somewhat remote house near the town of Nolde and eventually to Seebul, in every place creating a beautiful garden. The house at Seebul is now a Nolde Museum and the garden is preserved in the plan originally devised of the linked initials A and E. After a severe illness Nolde painted some large religious pictures but, always absorbed in nature, his main subjects were flowers, birds and animals, or landscapes often peopled with strange fantasies.

By invitation he joined briefly the revolutionary group Die Brucke and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, who was one of the principals, called him 'the wild visionary.' He was too individualistic and solitary to remain long within a group, although his pictures had all the force and unrestricted colour of those expressionists. In 1913-14 he went on an ethnological expedition to Russia, China, Japan and Polynesia, deriving much inspiration from beliefs and art in those countries. During the war he was one of the artists persecuted by the Nazis and being forbidden to paint, he was forced to work in a concealed room, producing 'unpainted pictures' while under house arrest.

He expressed his philosophy in these words, 'I had always wanted to paint, so that I, the painter, would be the medium through which the colours worked out their own logical development in the same way that nature creates her own work; in the same way that crystals and metal are formed; that moss and algae grow, that a flower must unfold and bloom under the sun's rays.'

Regarding The Moored Boat - Sunset, Nolde's technique was subordinated entirely to his emotional response to colour. The method used was that of flooding colour on to moistened, absorbent rice-paper and adding stronger colour with tufts of cotton, working wet on wet.

So much saturation was achieved that the picture sometimes penetrated the paper until it was indistinguishable from front or back. Any accents or sharply defined areas would be added when the paint was half dry but Nolde always retained the fluid, floating effect of free washes applied quickly and intuitively. These horizontal bands of colour glow and pulsate with rich intensity and the mood of mysterious sunset is accentuated by the deep tone of the boat, its mast and the reflection adding the needed unifying link between the swathes of colour.

Ella Fry, Gallery Images, St George Books, Perth, 1984

Reference: Martin Urban, Emil Nolde - Flowers and Animals, Thames and Hudson, London, 1966
The moored boat - sunset
Artist/Maker and role
Emil NOLDE: artist
watercolour on Japan paper
35.1 x 47.2 cm (sight)
57.0 x 69.0 cm (framed)
Credit line
Purchased 1969
The State Art Collection, The Art Gallery of Western Australia
Accession number

This is one of the watercolours in our collection.