Emil Nolde: Christ Among the Children

Thank you to LaGail Davis for contributing this commentary on Emil Nolde’s painting, Christ Among the Children, excerpted from a class essay.

As quoted by Pois, Nolde declares, “I had to be artistically free, not to have God before me as a steel-hard Assyrian ruler, but God in me, hot and holy as the love of Christ” (84). “The cold, paternal God of Old Testament authority, the Father God who, out of a sort of
divine crankiness turned people to salt or swallowed them up in earthquakes, had to be shoved way from him” (Pois, 85). Nolde desired a relationship with God that was tender, non-judgmental and uncomplicated. In the painting by Nolde called Christ Among the Children, (Figure 3) it is apparent to which character he attributes loving qualities and to whom he attributes rebuking qualities.

“Here the tender figure of the Savior, draped in a blue mantle, looms up protectively as an overpowering diagonal form, separating the bright children. . .from the dark purple of the disciples” (Selz, 19-20). The children’s faces are happy and full of love for the Savior with wide eyes and smiles painted in warm colors of red, orange, and yellow.The brushstrokes are softer in the painting of Christ and the children for whom Nolde had a tender heart. The men who tried to keep the children from Jesus are painted in darker cooler tones and fade into the background.  It appears that Nolde was trying to keep these cold hearted figures from penetrating the warmer parts of the composition.

Further reading at Hamon:

Pois, Robert. Emil Nolde. Washington, D.C.: U of America, 1982. Print.

Selz, Peter. Emil Nolde. New York: Double Day, 1963. Print.image008image002

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