Key Ideas about this Work of Art
- Expressionism was a style of art that intended to communicate the artist’s emotions rather than depict something lifelike. Die Brücke (translated “The Bridge”) was a group of German expressionists in Dresden. They admired Emil Nolde’s use of color and invited him to join their group. He joined Die Brücke, but he distanced himself from them after a year and a half.
- Nolde was a German artist who painted scenes of rough waters after his experience crossing the Kattegat, a long waterway between Sweden and Denmark. The “rough waters” motif was a recurring theme in his paintings.
- Nolde was an anti-Semite and a supporter of the Nazi Party. He was an early adopter of their beliefs, and he joined their party in 1934. Even though he supported the Nazis, they featured his work in the Degenerate Art exhibition in 1937. This Nazi exhibition intended to shame what they considered “bad art,” which was primarily modern work. Nolde was forbidden by the party to paint during World War II.
“Intellectuals and literati call me an expressionist. I do not like this narrow classification,” Emil Nolde argued. Regardless, Nolde’s expressive brushwork and heightened choice in color brings pictures of seething, turbulent seas to life.
Nolde’s depictions of unforgiving bodies of water were inspired by one terrifying trip crossing the Kattegat—an expansive waterway between Sweden and Denmark—around 1910. “This day,” Nolde remembered, “has remained so fixed in my memory, that for years afterwards all my paintings of the sea consisted of wildly heaving green waves and only a little edge of yellow sky on the upper fringe.” Here, Nolde visualizes this nightmarish memory, with a sailboat in the foreground nearly making its escape toward calmer waters.
Resources for Teachers
- Read the artist’s biography.
- Read an article about Die Brücke.
- Read an article about the Degenerate Art exhibition.
Resources for Students