4.03.2023 – 13.08.2023
Opening: 3rd March 2023, 19 Uhr
In 1952, at the renowned Commeter Gallery in Hamburg, the up-and-coming painter Herbert Beck had a landmark encounter with the 85-year-old painting prince Emil Nolde.
The gallery representing both artists was presenting Beck's solo exhibition when the already established artist entered as an unexpected visitor. The fact that the well-known expressionist Nolde not only paid attention to the young painter, but showed him his own watercolors in a portfolio he had brought with him, made a lasting impression and influence on Beck. The vast landscapes, cloud formations, and floral compositions radiated with incredible intensity and left a deep impression on Beck. "Reaching Nolde's glowing colorfulness was the goal of countless studies. In the course of time I succeeded in painting my portraits expressively, with strong colors, without becoming colorful," Beck later wrote.
The juxtaposition of two masters of watercolor painting in the Tecklenburg exhibition shows the unique class of Emil Nolde, but also Beck's continuation of this expressive painting into new areas of design and content. Both artists were always committed to the subject matter, and at the center of their work was the maxim of creating the highest possible expression of their content.
Herbert Beck further developed the extraordinary watercolor technique of the 53 years older co-founder of German Expressionism and brought it to his own language. While Emil Nolde watercolored on fine Japanese paper, Beck used a firm laid paper board, which he primed lightly. For both, the medium of watercolor meant a freer way of working in the blurring of colors and overworking as well as in the processual emergence. Both were masterly at creating a glow of color from within.
For all his affinity to the work of Emil Nolde, Herbert Beck also set completely different thematic emphases. While the North German Nolde is recognizably closely linked to his homeland in terms of motifs, Beck, in contrast, has no clear topographical clues that could be assigned; he is more concerned with 'landscapes of the soul'.
Emil Nolde remained in his cosmos of color virtuosity and beauty, although he was a witness of two world wars. His long overdue reappraisal of his closeness to Nazi ideology, his calculating creation of his own myth, which did not even shy away from untruths, shows him in a questionable light from a human point of view, but it does not diminish the extraordinary quality of his art. But his thematic worlds did not attempt social discourse. It was different with Beck, whom his personal experiences in the Second World War never quite left. His engagement with history and socially relevant, even supra-temporal themes are evident, for example, in his work "Kleine Giftgasfabrik" (Small Poison Gas Factory) and in his "Köpfe" (Heads), which, still and unmoving, look at the viewer eye-to-eye: Perpetrator and Victim, Victim and Perpetrator - as self-reflection.
The exhibition at the Otto Modersohn Museum combines 46 works by Beck and 8 watercolors by Nolde, landscape and figurative in the magical color worlds of two artists.