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Exhibition of Seldom-Seen Watercolours by Emil Nolde to Open at Pinakothek der Moderne
Emil Nolde, Idle Sailing Boats, around 1925, Watercolour, 347 x 468 mm, Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München, Inv. no: 44363 Z © Nolde-Stiftung Seebüll.

MUNICH.- In this exhibition on Emil Nolde (1867-1956) at the Pinakothek der Moderne, the public will once again be able to view the 24 seldom-seen watercolours in the possession of the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, that have not been on show for a long time. These celebrated and equally well-loved sheets by the famous German Expressionist, which cover all the subjects otherwise found in his oeuvre, can only be exhibited very rarely due to their extreme light sensitivity.

Nolde turned to watercolour early in his career. He developed his characteristic style of applying paint in the wet-on-wet technique between 1900 and 1910. From 1911, he used highly absorbent Japanese paper which made the colours run into each other all the more. The range the subjects found in his other work is also mirrored in his watercolour paintings. These are not sketches for works in oil, but form a part of his oeuvre in their own right. The watercolours also retain a focus on the object, be they radiantly luminous or in subdued shades. Form is not sufficient in itself, all the more so since the colour compositions take on their own independent existence. Nolde’s style of watercolour painting remained virtually unchanged for decades which means that it is very difficult to assign the mostly undated sheets to individual phases of the artist’s work.

The exhibition also draws attention to a fascinating piece of collecting history. The Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München acquired its first watercolour by Emil Nolde back in 1927 from the Graphisches Kabinett, Munich (later the Galerie Günter Franke). Two further acquisitions were made in 1929 and ’30 directly from the artist in Berlin. The watercolours as well as 16 of the 22 prints by the artist in the collection escaped the National Socialists’ »Degenerate Art« campaign.

Two watercolours are from the collection owned by a member of the Higher Regional Court, Karl Osthelder (c. 1860–1945), about whom little is known. In the 1920s, however, he was already actively involved as a patron of contemporary art being a »Friend of the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung«, and later left his extensive art collection to the state of Bavaria.

Sophie and Emanuel Fohn acquired works that had been confiscated during the »Degenerate Art« campaign in 1937 and which had formerly been in public collections throughout Germany, largely in exchange for their own collection of drawings from the early 19th century. In 1964, the husband-andwife team presented their collection to the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen. This included an important watercolour by Nolde that has never been clearly attributed to any collection, but most probably came from the Folkwang Museum in Essen, or the Städtische Galerie in Wuppertal-Elberfeld. Both before and after 1945 the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen had been collecting paintings on paper which were then handed to the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung in 1967. Seven watercolours by Nolde entered the collection this way.

A further ten watercolours came to Munich through the Kruss Collection. Martha (d. 1977) and Markus (1872–1962) Kruss bequeathed their collection of Expressionist art, that Markus Kruss had started to amass in the wake of World War I, to the state of Bavaria. Kruss and his first wife, who died in 1942, were friends of Nolde’s, and with ten watercolours and six prints, he was the artist with the most works on paper in the Kruss Collection.

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