San Francisco

Emil Nolde

Lewis Gallery

The German Expressionists were painters first and foremost, and Emil Nolde, whose real name was Hansen, is one of the most notable of them. His long struggle out of a peasant environment to the realm of art by way of the cramping professions of arts and crafts teacher and pattern designer gave his painting, when he finally shed his accumulation of conventions, an eruptive quality—seething and foaming colors made to yield the utmost passion. With simplicity and imagination, he brought forth symbolic paintings in “colors with a life of their own, laughing and crying, happy and dreamy, burning and holy . . .” (Nolde). These are the works we best know him by.

The luster and tone of his etchings, therefore, come as something of a surprise, despite our knowledge that one of the most fruitful contributions of the German Expressionists was the revival they brought to the graphic arts. His etchings, whether iron or copper, are much less violent than his paintings or his woodcuts would lead us to expect. But then, the Expressionists redeveloped etching, drypoint and lithography to serve expression “from within,” while woodcut they re-established as a means of vigorous communication. And in doing this, they regenerated the art of line. Nolde became a master of it. His prints in this show were done during and just after World War I, and deal with the life of villages and villagers. Subject-matter seems secondary to technique, but this may be due to the selection of prints.

E. M. Polley