Emil Nolde – Wheat Field 1900

Born in Germany, on a farm in Schleswig, and his early work consists mostly of dramatic rural landscapes. Emil Nolde (1867-1956) was a watercolourist, oil painter and printmaker, even though he originally studied woodcarving.
He was an admirer of the work of Manet, Cézanne, Munch as well as Van Gogh, which I think is evident through his use of strong colours and brushwork. Nolde felt that colours could produce emotional responses and reactions, and tried to apply this to his own work.

The contrasts of blue and yellow that Nolde has chosen for ‘Wheat Field’ are particularly effective. The yellow, glistening light hitting only certain areas of the landscape casts an ethereal glow, matched by the heaven inspired clouds. The lit yellow pathway leading across the dark blue is enticing, our eyes are led to follow. Aligning the opposite colours side by side not only creates depth, but indicates temperature. It becomes easy to imagine the warmth of the sunlight and the cool of the shade.

Emil Nolde – Wheat Field 1900

From a literal viewpoint, the choice of colours is interesting as yellow and blue make the green which would usually be associated with landscape artwork. In places where the watercolour has been allowed to run and blend, a dark green is just visible: a hint of truth.
Where the red barn-house can be seen on the horizon, we become aware that the painting is made up of primary colours. Perhaps this is another reason why it is so visibly satisfying.

There is a softness to his painting style which is different from his influences, but his use of expressive colours is similar. Even though this painting was made over one hundred years ago, I’d consider it to be a modern and interesting use of watercolour; a medium which has become cliched especially within landscape art.




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