Emile Nolde : Colour is Life

Colour is strength. Strength is life.
Only strong harmonies are important.

Emile Nolde wrote this in the final volume of his four-volume autobiography and it serves as a manifesto for his art – indeed it could stand for much of art in general.

Nolde was part of the German Expressionist movement, but lived in the northern part of the country near the border with Denmark, and was in fact a Danish citizen when he died. Much of his imagery reflects the landscapes and, above all, the people that surrounded him.

This survey of his life and work, which is much more than a catalogue of the exhibition currently at the National Gallery of Ireland, stresses that he was, for all that, not merely a regional artist. He was fully up to speed on trends and movements in contemporary art and also a master of both technique and colour. His use of the latter can, in the Expressionist manner, shock, but that’s designed to get attention and make the viewer think. It also provides a vibrancy and, in figurative works, a depth of character that is not always possible by other means.

As well as a generous format and some superb reproduction, there are also considered essays on a variety of aspects of Nolde’s work that make this, while more of a survey than an in-depth study, a thoroughly worthwhile assessment of the man and his work. It also stands well even when separated from the exhibition.

Note: the edition reviewed is that with the imprint of the National Gallery of Ireland. It is, however, also published by the National Gallery of Scotland and that is the edition linked to below.

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