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Maker(s):Nolde, Emil
Culture:German (1867-1956)
Title:Death as a Dancer (Der Tod als Tänzerin)
Date Made:1918
Materials:etching, aquatint and open-bite on heavy, wove Van Gelder Zonen paper; second state of two
Measurements:Sheet: 24 in x 17 3/8 in; 61 cm x 44.1 cm; Plate: 8 3/16 in x 10 7/16 in; 20.8 cm x 26.5 cm; Image: 7 7/8 in x 10 1/8 in; 20 cm x 25.7 cm
Accession Number:  AC 2012.321
Credit Line:Gift of Professor Hugh Hawkins
Museum Collection:  Mead Art Museum at Amherst College

Label Text:
Though Emil Nolde embraced the principles of the Expressionist movement at the outset of his artistic career, he remained free of close stylistic associations with it for the rest of his life. Nolde’s intaglio oeuvre is largely narrative, painterly, and highly experimental. He often incorporates unexpected “accidents” into the etching process, such as the false biting of the acid in the corroded pits along the bottom of the plate in the print here.

The theme of dance appears in his work throughout Nolde’s life. On a personal level, he was an admirer of Mary Wigman, a legendary German dancer and choreographer who integrated Expressionist principles into her performances. In Nolde’s allegorical etching here, Death, in the guise of a beautiful young dancer, is shoved by a devil onto a circular stage. She radiates an ecstatic energy, mesmerizing the men who surround her. The artist suggests a range of reactions: the youth on the right appears arrogant, the graybeard shies away from temptation, while the fool sits spellbound and the crowned head above looks down, perhaps humbled by thoughts of his own mortality. The dense aquatinted black seems to emerge from a depth beyond the sheet, touching them all.

MW, 2013

figures; lines; darkness; symbolism; nudes; portraits

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