Copy Famous Paintings – Emil Nolde


What is it?

A painting titled Windmill”, 1924 by German artist, Emil Nolde

How was this painting done?

Nolde has gone out on a limb with this painting.  Most artists shy away from using black as it is sometimes believed to be a dead colour.  Green can also be a difficult colour to mix and so easily appear garish by taking over the painting.

Here the artist has successfully used these two controversial colours.  The black is mixed with a very small amount of green to make a “living black”.  Nolde has mixed a tertiary green and toned it down by placing it directly beside its almost complementary colour, orange.  His placement of these two colours has created energy and vibrancy resulting in a painting that literally jumps off the canvas.

Nolde was a true artist who communicated immediately with his vision, his impulses and his influences. He gave this ordinary scene a disturbing presence.

Why should we care?

Nolde was one of the strongest and most independent of the German Expressionists and a member of the Dresden-based group known as Die Brücke. He was also a supporter of the Nazi party from the early 1920s, having become a member of its Danish section.

Adolf Hitler rejected all forms of modernism as “degenerate art“, and the Nazi regime officially condemned Nolde’s work.  Until that time, he had been held in great prestige in Germany.  A total of 1,052 of Nolde’s paintings were removed from museums, more than those of any other artist.  Some were included in the Degenerate Art exhibition of 1937, despite Nolde’s protests.

Nolde was not allowed to paint, even in private, after 1941.  As a matter of necessity, and in secret, he painted hundreds of watercolours in this time, which he hid.  Nolde called them the “Unpainted Pictures”.  The painter, although deprived of his livelihood as an artist, was loyal to the Nazi cause to the bitter end.  Nolde claimed his troubles were based on a “misunderstanding” and Hitler was simply misled by those around him in rejecting Nolde’s art.

Nolde was not only passionate about his painting, he was also loyal and forgiving, values we all aspire to today.

Where can I see other paintings like it?

Similarities can be seen inWindmill”, 1909 by Erich Heckel 

In this painting, fellow Die Brücke member, Heckel shows a similar use of colour although the brush strokes are much bolder and more like mark making.  Unlike Nolde, the artist has left areas of the canvas uncovered.   

And another expressionist work, “Spring Landscape at the Red House”, 1935 by Edvard Munch

In this landscape, Munch, like Nolde, has used intense colours, semi-abstraction and a mysterious, open-ended theme.

Meditate, relax and enjoy

Take the luxury of “time out” to recreate this fabulous painting in acrylics yourself. There can be no mistakes in making this painting.  Everything ends up as it should be.  Here’s how:

You will need

  • a small canvas, 30cm x 40cm is a good size (recycled is okay as below)
  • tubes of primary acrylic colours, blue, red and yellow plus white
  • a dark water soluble crayon
  • soft nylon paint brushes, (small, medium and a little larger)
  • water in an old container
  • a rag or disposable cloth
  • two or three hours

Tips on the Process

  • prime the canvas first, otherwise, just a wash and dry with a towel
  • print the photo you want to work from, measure and cut into quarters to make your drawing in a grid
  • turn the original photo upside down to make the drawing
  • use a dark coloured water soluble crayon for your drawing
  • correct drawing right-side up from the original
  • erase crayon easily with a damp cloth
  • it is a big plus if the watercolour crayon mark bleeds into the painting
  • everything is easily painted over or blended in with acrylics
  • paint in the background first
  • The painting will not look great at the initial blocking in stage, stay with it for a pleasant surprise
  • try not to use paint directly from the tube; experiment with how to mix colours
  • acrylics dry darker than the colour you put down

The Drawing Process

Turn your photo upside down and draw the space around the drawing with the crayon first.  This is just a framework to place the figure on the page and you can easily correct right-side up with the dampened cloth as I have done below.

Otherwise, you may use my drawing below.  I suggest you ask your copy shop to print the PDF below onto a canvas and proceed to make your own unique painting.  Otherwise, you can print the copy onto good quality paper, paint the picture and frame it.



0802 2017 001.JPG


The original image is copyrighted and was accessed on 03/02/2017 from  It is used here for educational purposes only.

If you would like to receive a welcome quarterly gem in your inbox then please subscribe to my blog.  Once every three months, I email the most popular post of drawings and quotes to my subscribers.  Strangely and coincidentally, the post connects to them and their life situation at that time.  

Subscribe to this blog at the bottom right of the home page.  



1 thought on “Copy Famous Paintings – Emil Nolde

  1. Pingback: 20 Famous Paintings for you to Copy | Zen School for Creative People

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.