Sunflowers in the Windstorm

Emile Nolde (German, 1867 - 1956)

1943. Oil on canvas, 28 5/8 x 34 5/8". 1991.001.049

In 1941, when the Nazi government denounced Emil Nolde’s Modernist style as “degenerate,” and forbade him to paint, he retreated to an isolated house near Seebüll, Germany. There, Nolde painted more than 1,300 water- colors, only rarely painting in oil for fear that the smell of the oil paints would give him away to the authorities. In his paintings, Nolde sought to express his mystical identification with nature, as here where three sunflowers struggle to survive a storm that sweeps heavy clouds in from the sea. Four sailboats are silhouetted against a sunset sky in the lower right-hand corner. The sunflowers may represent Nolde’s own struggle to endure oppression.

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