Emil Nolde, Burning Landscape, detail, n.d. | Watercolour, 17.1 × 20.2 cm | Nolde Stiftung Seebüll © Nolde Stiftung Seebüll | Photo: Dirk Dunkelberg, Berlin


The Expressionist Emil Nolde is arguably the most famous ‘degenerate artist’. No other artist had as many works confiscated, nor were their works as prominently displayed in the early venues of the Degenerate Art exhibition of 1937/38.

How does Nolde’s ostracism and occupational ban fit with our knowledge that he was a National Socialist (Nazi) Party member, and that he kept faith with the regime until the end of the war? The art critic Adolf Behne underlined Nolde’s special status on the artist’s eightieth birthday in 1947, by pointedly referring to him as a “degenerate ‘degenerate’”. It has long been known that Emil Nolde was a party member. Yet no previous exhibition has thoroughly examined what this had to do with his art, or how the historical circumstances around National Socialism affected his artistic production.

Emil Nolde, Paradise Lost, 1921 | Oil on rough canvas (sackcloth), 106.5 × 157 cm | Nolde Stiftung Seebüll © Nolde Stiftung Seebüll | Photo: Fotowerkstatt Elke Walford, Hamburg, and Dirk Dunkelberg, Berlin

Emil Nolde, Old Peasant Couple (Red Beard and Cap), n. D. (before/ca. 1942) | Watercolour, 21.9 × 16.5 cm | Nolde Stiftung Seebüll © Nolde Stiftung Seebüll | Photo: Dirk Dunkelberg, Berlin

The exhibition Emil Nolde – A German Legend. The Artist during the Nazi Regime is based on the results of a multi-year academic research project which for the first time was able to analyse the extensive holdings of the Nolde estate in Seebüll, uncovering so much new material that the conventional Nolde narrative must be revised.

Thus, for example, the exhibition will present the famous Unpainted Pictures – the small-format watercolours Nolde was reputed to have secretly painted at Seebüll during his occupational ban – in a completely new light, explaining them as part of a long-standing practice of self-stylisation. The importance of this self-stylisation – and how strongly it has influenced our view of Nolde – will be demonstrated to visitors through a reconstruction of the ‘hall of paintings’ in Nolde’s studio house in Seebüll. This reconstruction will display the paintings and watercolours just as the ageing artist himself arranged them during the wartime winter of 1941/42.

The exhibition will present over 100 originals, some of which have not previously been shown, with references to Nolde’s writings and in the historical context of their creation, in order to reveal the multi-layered relationships between paintings, the artist’s self-presentation, his ostracism, and development of his legend. What impact did the ‘Third Reich’ have on Emil Nolde’s artistic work? To what extent do some of his works, such as his depictions of mythic sacrificial scenes or Nordic people, correspond with his sympathies for the regime? What effects did Nolde’s defamation and occupational ban have on his artistic practice and political outlook? And how did the myths about Nolde develop in the post-war period?

The exhibition will take place in what is known as the ‘Neue Galerie’. The ‘Neue Galerie’ in Hamburger Bahnhof is serving as an annexe for the Neue Nationalgalerie until its renovations are complete. Changing exhibitions consisting of excerpts from the museum’s collection of early twentieth century art are presented here. The ‘Neue Galerie’ opened with The Black Years. Histories of a Collection: 1933–1945 (2015), and then presented exhibitions on Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (2016), Rudolph Belling (2017) and Otto Mueller (2018).

The Brücke-Museum will concurrently present the exhibition Escape into the Paintings? The Brücke Artists and the Nazi Regime (14 April to 11 August 2019), which will take a critical and comprehensive look for the first time at the artistic practices, freedoms and restrictions, and daily lives of the Brücke artists under National Socialism, so that these two exhibitions may supplement each other splendidly, and provide each other with synergistic feedback.

Plan your visit

April 12 – September 15, 2019

Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Invalidenstraße 50-51
10557 Berlin

regular: 8 Euro
reduced: 4 Euro
house ticket incl. temporary exhibitions:
regular: 14 Euro
reduced: 7 Euro
Free admission on every first Thursday of the month from 4 to 8 pm.
Free admission for children and young people up to the age of 18.
Due to the high volume of interested visitors, single admission tickets for the exhibition Emil Nolde are being sold as timed tickets (available online and at cash registers). Access to the exhibition can currently not be guaranteed for day pass holders (day ticket for one museum).

U-Bahn U55 Hauptbahnhof, U6 Naturkundemuseum
S-Bahn S3, S5, S7, S75 Hauptbahnhof
Tram M5, M8, M10 Hauptbahnhof
Bus 120, 123, 142, 147, 245, M41, M85, TXL Hauptbahnhof

Café/book store/free cloak room

Unmastered? Aesthetic Modernism and National Socialism. Art, Art Trade, Exhibition Practice
16 – 18 May 2019, Admission free
More information and programme


10 am – 6 pm
10 am – 6 pm
10 am – 8 pm
10 am – 6 pm
11 am – 6 pm
11 am – 6 pm

Good Friday to Easter Monday (April 19 – April 22, 2019): 11 am – 6 pm
Wedenesday, May 1, 2019: 11 am – 6 pm
Ascension Day (Thursday, May 30, 2019): 11 am – 6 pm
Pentecost (June 8 – June 10, 2019): 11 am – 6 pm


On the occasion of the exhibition a catalogue including numerous coloured images and essays is being published by Prestel Verlag.

Emil Nolde. The Artist during the Third Reich
Hardcover, 384 pages, 23,0 x 30,0 cm, 250 coloured images

Edited by Bernhard Fulda, Christian Ring und Aya Soika.

Price at the museum: 39 Euro 

The exhibition catalogue was made possible thanks to financing from the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius as well as the Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung.

Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin

The Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin presides over a comprehensive collection of contemporary art, which it presents in a variety of exhibitions. It is the largest among the buildings housing the Nationalgalerie’s extensive holdings, the remainder of which are divided into the Alte Nationalgalerie, the Neue Nationalgalerie, the Museum Berggruen, and the Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg.

More information


An exhibition by the Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, in cooperation with the Nolde Foundation Seebüll, curated by Bernhard Fulda, Christian Ring and Aya Soika, made possible by the Freunde der Nationalgalerie and supported by the Friede Springer Stiftung.

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