Tag Archives: Emil Nolde

Disappearing palaces, tempestuous landscapes and lemon squeezers

image showing three books

two Christopher Lehmpfuhl painting catalogues and a book about Emil Nolde’s watercolour landscapes

It might be cold outside but there has been a simmering of wild colours and stormy brushstrokes within. More late birthday gifts arrived in the form of two new catalogues of Christopher Lehmpfuhl’s bold and dazzling work and a small but sumptuous book filled with Emil Nolde watercolour landscapes. Both German painters, but separated by time.

image showing colourful watercolour

wild watercolour number 1, 10 inches square on Arches paper

The Nolde book is very inspiring and propelled me towards my watercolour tubes and pans, resulting in some enthusiastic and richly-hued daubs. I still can’t work out how Nolde achieved such dense, strong colour. Maybe it was the particular shades he chose to work with and maybe he created numerous layers. The more ‘stainy’ colours I used held up relatively well but the others did what watercolours often do – looked vivid while wet but faded to a whitish glow on drying.

watercolour, 10x10 inches on Arches paper

watercolour attempt number 2, 10 inches square on Arches paper

I have done some more work on the Crosdale large painting and, while I’m pleased with the colours, it’s still not quite there yet.

oil painting of Crosdale, work in progress

large Crosdale painting, work progressing slowly, oil on canvas

At the opposite end of the brightness scale, my odd dark painting is still progressing towards its rather spooky finished state.

A2 oil painting on canvas, Whitewell painting

seems it’s always dark near Whitewell, work in progress, oil on canvas, A2

Lehmpfuhl catalogue showing still life paintings and window views

the joy of small scenes in the Lehmpfuhl catalogue

One of my Christopher Lehmpfuhl catalogues is full of intimate still lifes: views through windows and portraits of tables loaded with glasses, crockery and other small items. It gave me an idea to have a go at capturing a ‘family’ of glassware grouped on a table top.

6x8 inches still life of glassware, oil on canvas

still life glassware family group, two tumblers and a lemon squeezer, 6×8 inches, oil on canvas

As the evenings have been getting longer I also managed to paint a very quick view out of the kitchen window as the light was beginning to fade. It was a real rush to get it done, especially as a stray dog appeared wandering through the gardens below while I painted, leading me to break off and check that it had not been abandoned, but it could lead to further paintings as I enjoy the odd shapes of the hills and the trees and their associated shadows.

oil painting on canvas, 9×12 inches, window view

extreme painting, through the window in record time, oil on canvas, 9×12 inches

Christopher Lehmpfuhl catalogue: Die Neue Mitte

Die Neue Mitte exhibition catalogue, brimming with energetic paintings

The larger of the two Lehmpfuhl catalogues is full of thrilling, swirling, huge plein air paintings from an exhibition called ‘Die Neue Mitte’. The series of paintings was created to document the controversial, politically-motivated demolition of an East German landmark building in Berlin, the Palast der Republik, which was open to the public as well as being the home of the DDR parliament and the people’s chamber, or Volkskammer.

It was a place where cultural events took place, with a theatre and art galleries as well as a disco, restaurants and even a post office. As the Palast was gradually torn down Lehmpfuhl kept finding new angles to paint it from and the whole extraordinary process was documented in a film which can be found halfway down this page, entitled ‘Die Neue Mitte’.

I saw the Palast der Republik on my first visit to Berlin in 2001 and it had a real 70s look to it, with its bronze mirrored exterior reminding me of glittery disco interiors and dark smoked coffee tables made of glass. Another short film, about the opening of the Palast in 1976, can be found here.

Nolde is more than of the earth

shot of the pier against bright sunset

a Fylde sunset that’s worthy of Nolde

Emil Nolde is an odd one. He is grouped with the Expressionists but he seems to do his own thing, not quite fitting in with the rest of them. There isn’t anyone who paints like Nolde, or has ever done, in watercolour or oil. I thought that he had probably developed his painting style by carefully subverting a known system that he had previously absorbed. I knew Nolde had had art training before he became a famous painter. So, I was surprised to discover an excerpt from a book by James Elkins (the book is called “What Painting Is”) in which Nolde’s painting process was described as being chaotic and experimental, going against all known rules in terms of technique with the result that many paintings were ruined.

This unexpected finding, if true, makes me feel much more comfortable about my own painting process because, having had much less instruction in painting than I have in drawing, I feel very comfortable when I draw but when I paint I feel I am reinventing the wheel, making it up as I go along and striving to do something that might be impossible.

Well, apparently Nolde was a kindred spirit in that he painted furiously, wrongly and overdid it on more occasions than not, turning glowing colours into a grey sludgy mess. It seems hard to believe but the book mentions canvases being destroyed or the backs used for new works. I wish I could show some of Nolde’s paintings here but it would be seen as infringing copyright, so I shall link to this illustrated sample of a recent book about Nolde instead.

Recently I created my own versions of two Nolde paintings, trying to work out his painting process through doing. I think I can safely show the pictures here as there is no way they could be confused with the originals! It was a useful exercise but it made me notice in particular how my efforts very obviously lack his beautiful brushmarks. I find it’s difficult to let go and make painterly and pleasing marks when copying anything – whether it’s one of my own drawings or paintings or someone else’s. Only when painting directly from the subject do my brushstrokes seem to flow, at least a bit.

an homage to Emil Nolde

My own version of Nolde’s painting “Shivering Russians”. I love the colours of the original but couldn’t quite get the same glow

a painting created after Emil Nolde

my own version of Nolde’s painting “The Sea B”. My brushstrokes are nowhere near as moving and sensitive as Nolde’s, needless to say

Recently I’ve been wondering whether I feel so attached to Nolde’s vision because, according to another book about the painter, ” Emil Nolde. Mein Wunderland von Meer zu Meer”, the area that Nolde called home was very similar to the landscape in which I grew up. The borderland where Germany meets Denmark was the place Nolde came from and was inspired by, and it seems to echo the scenery of my childhood.

I grew up in a low, marshy area with salt flats leading out into the Irish Sea, with beautiful hills a few miles inland. The skies over those vast, flat fields were huge and you were never far from the sea which, being born in Blackpool and having relatives there, I felt was part of me. I still miss it. The opening picture of this post gives some idea of the immensity of that coastline (which is not just a place of tacky shell-gifts, rock, silly hats and obscenity but a windswept, light and sand-blasted border where powerful forces of thrashing waves and immovable concrete meet under incredible skies).

photo of lane with fields and hedges

the flat fields, ancient hedgerows and huge skies I grew up with

photo of cornfield, tree and bike

the lush fields of home

photo of hills, trees and hedge

gentle hills rise further inland

Nolde was a member of the German Expressionist group Die Brücke for a while but mostly followed his own mystical, colourful path. Paul Klee once said of him:

Abstract artists, far removed from this earth, or fugitives from it, sometimes forget that Nolde exists. Not so I, even on my furthest flights, from which I always manage to find my way back to earth, to rest in the gravitational force I find there. Nolde is more than of the earth, he is the sphere’s guardian spirit. Domiciled elsewhere oneself, one is always aware of the cousin in the deep, the kinsman of one’s choice.

photo of Blackpool sunset

setting sun at Blackpool

photo of the pier and sunset waves

the end of the pier, where it all begins