The picture marked in the original colours at the end of the film is “Christ and the Sinner” by Emil Nolde. It was acquired by the Berlin National Gallery in 1929. There was a fierce dispute about the recognition of expressionist artists during the Weimar Republic.
Review: The Berlin Secession
Nolde made his first major attempt at recognition in Berlin in 1910. It was fermenting in the art scene, in Munich the Blaue Reiter caused a scandal, in Berlin Nolde and the painters of the “Brücke” also wanted to make a revolution. But Nolde’s paintings were rejected by the Berlin artists’ association Secession. This rejection marks the beginning of Emil Nolde’s history of anti-Semitism. The art dealer Paul Cassirer and the painter Max Liebermann, both Jews, determine the fate of the Secession and become Nolde’s intimate enemies. This personal antagonism was also about Nolde’s threatened economic existence as a free artist.
Nolde celebrated his 60th birthday in 1927 and the Kunsthalle Dresden presented him with a large exhibition of his work, which was long overdue for public recognition. Nolde is a very ambitious painter who understands the expressionist style as a unique way of representation. “I would like my paintings to be more than just a nice entertainment by chance, no, that they (…) give the viewer a full sound of life and human existence,” he writes. Since 1927, Nolde has been one of the great stars of classical modernism in Germany. But he remains an anti-Semite and tries to serve himself to the Nazis after 1933. He becomes a member of the Danish NS foreign organization (Nolde is a Danish citizen) and tries to please Hitler by all means. Hans Fehr, perhaps Nolde’s best friend, wrote: “But since everything in Nolde was born out of a primordial instinct, out of a primordial force far from the mind, he saw his innermost being hurt when someone dared to touch this mysterious world”. The deep injury from the years before 1927 perhaps explains the closeness to the Nazis. And Nolde always saw himself as a painter of the Nordic. Nevertheless, Nolde’s art in its radical subjectivity is virtually inconceivable as state art of the Nazi regime.
After the blasphemy of 1937, Nolde is banned from selling and painting. 1052 works of art are removed from the museums and a large part are sold for foreign currency to finance the armament. The “distribution and reproduction” of his works was prohibited.