June 8, 2020
Expressionism began in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. Its character was to reflect the world from a totally subjective perspective. In art this meant creating works based on presenting an emotional response to objects or experiences rather than depicting physical characteristics. These included outrage at the atrocities of war, but also the beautiful floral works of Emil Nolde.
OK that’s fair enough, but how is it done? Emil Nolde 1867 to 1956 was a brilliant colourist with horrid politics who produced floral paintings that were very far from botanical illustration. They have a power and a deceptive simplicity but whatever emotion they convey they glow with colour, especially the works in watercolour.
One of the founder members of the expressionist movement, Nolde’s flower paintings are works born of observation but full of energy and colour, making us feel the flowers and their character rather than giving us a blow by blow account of every petal and stamen. Sometimes it is the sense of movement, sometimes it is their rich texture, sometimes pattern or an exciting background colour but they glow with life.
I have put together a couple of studies some rather sketchy, just to show how you may think of srarting your own expressionist flower painting. Colour is obviously important so look at your flower models. What mood do they suggest to you?
Light and airy?
Rich and decadent?
Frilly and frivolous?
Sombre or sad?
What colours and colour combinations do these moods suggest?
What tonal contrasts go with that mood?
Just reflect on this before you start; a sort of art meditation!
If you Google Emil Nolde flower paintings you will find a huge number; feel free to choose your own flowers or to make your own version of one of his paintings in any medium. Watercolour or pastel would work well.
My poppy painting definitely has a mood. Below I have included three stages of a watercolour of the Phlomis blooming in my garden at three stages. The mood of the painting changes as the colours become richer and darker.
Have fun and create flowers from your heart!