Emil Nolde

Emil Nolde (Nolde, nr. Tondern 1867 - 1956 Seebüll)

Japanese Woman with a Young Girl, Japan 1913

Watercolour and Indian ink on Japan paper, 28 x 23,5 cm
Signed lower right Nolde.

Provenance:
Presented by the artist to Dr. Lotte Redlefsen (née Rieve) at some point between 1939 and 1945 in exchange for painting materials.[1] Thence by descent
Private collection, Berlin

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My paints, my pens and my paper travelled with us wherever we went.[2]

Emil Nolde and his wife Ada set off from Berlin on 3 October 1913 as self-sponsored members of a New Guinea scientific expedition. It was organized by the Reichskolonialamt and titled 'Medizinisch-demographische Deutsch-Neuguinea-Expedition' [Medical-demographic German-New Guinea expedition]. Their route to New Guinea took them through Moscow, Siberia, Korea, Japan, China and the Philippines. In May 1914, the couple broke off the journey and took a southerly route back to Europe, travelling via Celebes, Java, Burma, Ceylon and Egypt. When war broke out in August they embarked on a Dutch steamer in Port Said for Marseilles and Genoa, where they boarded a train for Switzerland and reached Berlin via Zurich and Munich. Their luggage, including all the work Nolde had produced on the trip, had been sent on ahead. The ship carrying Nolde's work was intercepted by a British naval patrol in the Bay of Biscay in early August. His work was confiscated and did not surface until after the war. It was discovered in a warehouse in Plymouth and returned to Nolde.[3] Many of these drawings and watercolours were to serve Nolde as a basis for a number of his later paintings.

Emil and Ada Nolde spent three weeks in Japan - which Emil called the Morgensonnenland[4] - in the autumn of 1913.[5] They travelled widely by train and car. In Tokyo they went to the theatre and explored the Geisha district. In Kyoto they visited the Museum and in Nara the famous Hôryû-ji Temple. Nolde bought 'sheets of fine, delicate hand-made paper which soaked up his rich, flowing paints.'[6]

The present watercolour was executed in Japan. It depicts a young Japanese woman. She is seated, with a small girl nestled up beside her. The woman's kimono is in a rich blue and the child's is brightly patterned. The intimacy of their relationship is acutely observed and sensitively conveyed. It is possible that the woman is a geisha teaching a maiko, an apprentice geisha. Training began at the age of six years, six months and six days, and the maiko was given a grounding in the traditional arts of Japan - music, dance and conversation.

The palette is vibrant and expressive, although reduced. The same chromatic intensity is characteristic of other watercolours by Nolde executed in Japan in 1913.

We are greatful to Dr. Christian Ring, Nolde Stiftung Seebüll, for his assistance in compiling this catalogue entry.


[1] Lotte Redlefsen was the daughter of Georg Rieve, an architect and close friend of Nolde. Together, they designed Nolde's house and studio in Seebüll. After Nolde's death Rieve was a founder member of the Noldekuratorium. The Nolde Stiftung's first director was Joachim von Lepel. See Emil Nolde, Reisen, Ächtung, Befreiung. 1919-1946, Cologne 1967, p. 101 and p. 135.

[2] Emil Nolde, Welt und Heimat. Die Südseereise 1913-1918, geschrieben 1936, Cologne 1965, p. 32.

[3] Part III of Nolde's autobiography (Nolde, op. cit.) gives a detailed account of his journey to the South Pacific; see Manfred Reuther and Nolde Stiftung Seebüll (eds.), Emil Nolde - Die Südseereise 1913-1914, exhib. cat., Nolde Museum, Seebüll, Cologne 2008.

[4] Nolde, op. cit., p. 32.

[5] Manfred Reuther and Nolde Stiftung Seebüll (eds.), Morgensonnenland. Emil Nolde in Japan, exhib. cat., Nolde Museum, Seebüll, Neukirchen 2005.

[6] Emil Nolde - Die Südseereise, op. cit., p. 21.

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