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Emil Nolde, "Young Couple," 1913
- This is "Young Couple," a lithograph from 1913 by Emil Nolde. Nolde is known as one of the leading expressionists, a loose group of artists working mostly in Germany in the early 1900s and 1910s. They worked to heighten the emotional, expressive impact of their subjects by distorting the forms or exaggerating the color. Nolde's subject here is the relationship between the sexes, and this was a theme throughout his work. He was looking for themes that would get to the core of human existence. It's interesting when you look at the two figures what you see, there's a certain ambiguity in their relationship. The man is grabbing the woman by the wrist, and she sort of recoils almost, so we're not sure if she's actually really afraid of him, there's some kind of threatening or dangerous situation there, or if it's just a coy little game that they're playing. But what we have here are three variations of the same lithograph. A lithograph is made by drawing on a stone and then being printed. Nolde worked in a commercial print shop, so it was a shop that didn't really work with artists. He got very, very experimental. Instead of just having the edition of 112, he would change the colors in each print. Within this edition of 112, there's actually 68 different color variations, and we're very lucky here at MoMA that we have three of those because what it shows you is how he used the color, he experimented with it, each time to create a different emotional reading. By 1913, many of the expressionists like Nolde were creating their most powerful, very important works. And then of course just a year later in 1914, the war broke out in Germany. If the relationships changed, the subjects changed, and the mood, which was often somewhat exuberant in the early years of expressionism changed quite a bit after this moment.