Born in the village of Nolde in 1902, Emil Hansen came from a family of peasants. Nolde completed an apprenticeship as a furniture designer and wood carver in Flensburg between 1884 and 1888 and then worked for various furniture factories in Munich, Karlsruhe and Berlin. He was employed as a teacher of industrial drawing at the Gewerbemuseum (Industrial Museum) in St. Gallen in 1892, where he taught until 1898. Nolde finally moved to Munich after deciding to become a painter, but the academy under Franz von Stuck dismissed him. He joined Adolf Hölzel in Dachau in 1899 to become his pupil and went to Paris in 1900 to increase his knowledge at the Académie Julien. In 1906, Nolde was invited to Dresden by the leaders of the Die Brücke group. The companionship with Schmidt-Rottluff, Kirchner and Heckel ended, but it was to act as a catalyst on Nolde’s production and gave the painter the stature of a master. After a dispute with Max Liebermann, Nolde was excluded from the ´Berliner Sezession´ and founded together with other dismissed artists the ´Neue Sezession´ in 1910 and participated in their exhibition until 1912. Less fascinated by the city-life of Berlin, which he recorded in expressionistic pictures, than by primitivism, Nolde painted still lives with exotic figures and mask pictures. He returned from an expedition to New Guinea in 1913 with lots of study material, which he worked up in numerous works until 1915. Since 1916, he spent his summers on the island Föhr, where he completed several of his sea paintings, and settled in Seebüll in 1928. The garden in Seebüll and the coastal areas became his primary inspiration. Defamed by the Nazis and banned from exhibiting his works since 1941, Nolde spent the years 1939 to 1945 in Seebüll. He died on 13 April 1956.
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