The Expressionist Emil Nolde (1867–1956) is arguably the most famous “degenerate artist”. No other artist had as many works confiscated, nor were their works as prominently displayed in the early venues of the ‘Degenerate Art’ exhibition of 1937/38.
How does Nolde’s ostracism and professional ban fit with our knowledge that he was a Nazi Party member, and that he kept faith with the regime until the end of the war? The art critic Adolf Behne underlined Nolde’s special status on the occasion of the artist’s eightieth birthday in 1947, by pointedly referring to him as a “degenerate ‘degenerate’”. It has long been known that Emil Nolde was a party member. Yet no previous exhibition has thoroughly examined how this relates to his art, or how the historical circumstances during National Socialism affected his artistic production.