Cacti and Tulips

Emil Nolde

Nolde 1867 - 1956 Seebüll

Cacti and Tulips

Watercolour on Japan paper

26.9 x 46 cm

Signed lower left: Nolde

Certificate of authenticity with photograph by Prof. Dr. Manfred Reuther, Nolde Stiftung Seebüll, 3 March 2020.
The present work is registered with the Nolde Stiftung Seebüll under number "Nolde A - 168/2020".


cf. Exhibition catalogue "Emil Nolde. In Glut und Farbe", ed. by Agnes Husslein-Arco and Stephan Koja, Unteres Belvedere, Vienna 2013/2014, ill. p. 210 ff

When one thinks of Emil Nolde, his flower and garden paintings immediately come to mind. It is precisely these colourful oil and watercolour paintings that made the artist famous, and so the colourful blooming flowers remain a central motif in his oeuvre throughout his life. Starting from the Baltic Sea island of Alsen, where he and his wife Ada lived in a small fisherman's house, Nolde began in 1906 - inspired by the beautiful surrounding gardens - to put the abundance of different flowers and plants on canvas and paper. From the beginning it is clear that pure colour is the true means of expression in his art. Thus he also deals with the emotional meaning of the individual colours. Compared to his earlier works, the colourfulness increases in strength and luminosity, resulting in his much praised "colour storms "1). In direct contact with nature, he studies the individual blossoms and leaves in order to capture the original essence and the vivid effect of the colours. Intuition and spontaneity are his constant companions.
From 1913 to 1914, Emil and Ada Nolde took part in a New Guinea expedition and got to know a completely unknown, new world of flowers and plants. The fascination for the exotic and tropical flora does not let go of him even after this trip to the South Seas. The Nolde couple regularly visited the botanical gardens in Berlin and Hamburg, whose large cactus collections probably also aroused Nolde's interest.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the cactus generally enjoyed particular popularity and, with its shape and colour, provided a touch of the exotic, also in Nolde's own four walls, where domestic flowers met orchids and cacti. These unusual combinations are also to be found in his watercolours. This can be seen in the present work, which shows tulips next to a flowering epiphyllum in front of a purple to cream background, which thus picks up the bright colours of the violet, yellow and red blossoms. The blue-green stems of the tulips imitate the leaves of the cactus plant in their drooping form. The result is a particularly appealing floral image that impresses with its balanced composition, radiant colourfulness and unusual plant combination.

1) Martin Urban, Seebüll Foundation (ed.), Emil Nolde - Flowers and Animals. Watercolours and Drawings, Cologne 1994, p. 23