Flowers from the Soul: create an expressionist floral painting

June 8, 2020


Pink Rose 2: watercolour by Jo

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.

Ranunculus and Clematis: pastel over watercolour by Jo

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?

Sunflowers: pastel over watercolour by Jo

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.

Poppy: watercolour

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.

Phlomis 1: watercolour

Phlomis 2: watercolour

Phlomis 3: watercolour


Have fun and create flowers from your heart!

Your paintings:

Orange Poppies and Hardy Geraniums by Angela


A flat watercolour by Angela


Irises by Ann


Iris by Ann

Iris by Ann


Sunflowers after Nolde by Barbara


Sunflower, acrylic by Heather


Pansies, watercolour and pastel by Heather


Roses, acrylic by Heather


Pansies, pastel by Jan


Flowers, watercolour by Jan


Watercolour Flowers by Jane


Pink and Orange Poppies, watercolour by Jane


Garden, watercolour by John


Pink Roses by Liz


Red Poppies, watercolour by Maricarmen


Poppy Bank by Roger


Jamaica Primrose and Hardy Geraniums, pastel by Ruth


Basket of Flowers by Vivienne


Waterlilies by Shane


Through the Window, watercolour by Shane


Watercolour by Sandra


Poppy by Sandra

Watercolour by Sandra


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