Emil Nolde (1867-1956), The Last Supper, 1909
The Last Supper is an artistic milestone within Emil Nolde’s body of work. The work marks the beginning of a series of very personal pictures where Nolde broke away from traditional religious imagery. Using expressive colours and shapes, he communicates subjective and intense religious sentiments with new, shocking coarseness.
The motif of the painting
Christ and the twelve disciples are seated around a table. The thirteen men are gathered around a source of light that creates drama by accentuating their grave and startled expressions. There is no depth in the painting, no details to describe the space in which the action takes place. The expressive colours and the restricted space serve to deepen the psychological aspects of the scene. Christ is seated in the middle and looks like a man close to death; the yellow face prefigures the fate of the Son of Man. Shortly before Nolde began work on The Last Supper, he almost died from poisoning. Thus, one might argue that Nolde identifies with Christ.
Nazism, Nolde and the Entartete Kunst
The Nazis took offence at The Last Supper, removed it from the museum in Halle and gave it a prominent place at the Entartete Kunst exhibition in 1937. Nolde eventually got back the picture and bequeathed it to the National Gallery of Denmark in his will.