Somber Head of a Man (Dusterer Mannerkopf)
Transfer lithograph printed in black, with a light greenish-tan border
Purchased through a gift from Robert and Karen Hoehn, Class of 2009P; 2005.71
The artist who produced this lithograph is generally associated with a movement in the first decades of the last century called expressionism, a style in which the intention is not to reproduce a subject accurately but to portray some of the deeper feelings and issues with which people struggle. Aesthetically, expressionists moved away from realistic representation and instead emphasized symbolic representation through simplicity, boldness, and flat planes with little attention to depth. The subjects they portrayed often attempt to convey intense and disturbing psychological states, such as despair and alienation.
The self-portrait by Emil Nolde represents the pinnacle of the artist’s interest in rendering a face solely from highlights that emerge from a dark ground. Like several other printed portraits executed in this manner in 1906-7, it is a dramatic study in three-dimensional form constructed solely from strongly contrasting patterns of light and shadow. Throughout the approximately five hundred prints made by Nolde during his career, he consistently experimented with various techniques during short periods of sustained activity. In lithography his interpretations were neither abstract nor fully articulated; this was instead an ideal medium for employing his fluid and intuitive style aimed at expressing psychological tension. The addition of a colored border through the application of broad, sweeping brushstrokes in 1915—a method used by Nolde for several earlier lithographs at this time—imbued the surface of the original image with a new sense of animated, vigorous execution.
This print exploits lithography’s ability to reproduce the spontaneity of the artist’s original drawing. Compared to other printing methods, in which the relationship between the initial conception and its final execution is mediated through highly skilled transfer techniques in wood or copper, this medium allows the printmaker to draw directly on a stone surface using wax and oil-based crayons. Many artists preferred the freedom of the lithographic technique, often creating more fully realized compositions than those produced in drawings and more spontaneous ones than those produced in paintings.
Last Updated: 1/21/10