Emil Nolde meets Paula Modersohn-Becker
9 October 2016 to 29 January 2017, Böttcherstrasse Museums
Paris, circa 1900: The young, still unmarried artist Paula Becker and the painter Emil Hansen (later Nolde) meet. Their first and only meeting would remain a footnote in the history of art if there were not other interesting parallels and lines of development, which will now be illustrated for the first time in an exhibition. From 9 October 2016 Paula Modersohn-Becker and Emil Nolde will meet once more at the Museen Böttcherstraße in Bremen. All 70 of the exhibited artworks focus on people: a motif that fascinated both of them throughout their entire oeuvres.
The fact that figural images are among the quantitatively most prevalent subjects is particularly surprising in the case of Emil Nolde’s work. “A few times I have been asked whether I’m not really interested in people at all, because I apparently look at them so little. ‘Actually, very much so’, I said [...]. Only perhaps in an unusual way. In a twelfth of a second the eye is supposed to be able to receive an impression [...]. But also, when one only half looks at people, then they become simpler and grander”, reports the artist in his memoirs. This simplicity and grandeur is what links him with Paula Modersohn-Becker. In one of her journals she writes that “simplicity of form is something marvellous” and that she strives “for the utmost simplicity united with the most intimate power of observation”.
The exhibition begins with studies of nudes made by Paula Modersohn-Becker and Emil Nolde during their stay in Paris around 1900. This comparison suggests the characteristic features of their later art: While Emil Nolde’s images are distinguished by their painterliness and colours, Modersohn-Becker already seems to have developed a special eye for forms and shapes. In spite of this strong dissimilarity, even in these early works they are united by that search for the essential which would shape the course of their oeuvres. For both of them painting was not about creating an image of something but about moods and feelings. The exhibition clearly demonstrates this by directly juxtaposing thematically similar paintings, drawings, watercolours and prints. In different ways Nolde and Modersohn-Becker reduce the model provided by nature, but they never entirely turn away from it; with their concentration on colour or form they succeed in grasping the characteristic qualities of their subjects, and in this way they invest their images with a distinctive and almost intimate expression.
This first direct juxtaposition of selected works by Paula Modersohn-Becker and Emil Nolde enables us to draw surprising comparisons between two pioneers of modern art who, in spite of all their dissimilarity, primarily present themselves as one thing: painters of people.
With the exhibition at the Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum, the Museen Böttcherstraße accompany us from one Nolde anniversary to the next: 2016 is the 60th anniversary of Nolde’s death and he would have turned 150 in 2017.
The exhibition is held in cooperation with the Nolde Stiftung Seebüll.
Family ticket €20