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Arts of Europe

The MFAH collections of art created on the European continent encompass artistic styles across the time line of history, from the ancient world to the Middle Ages, and the Early Modern era to the 21st century.

© Nolde Stiftung Seebuell
German, 1867 - 1956
Woodcut, unnumbered edition of about 50

Block: 12 1/2 x 8 13/16 inches
Sheet: 14 15/16 x 12 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum purchase with funds provided by the Alvin S. Romansky Prints and Drawings Accessions Endowment Fund

Arts of Europe

During his brief association with the German Expressionist group
Die Brücke in 1906, Emil Nolde learned the technique of woodcut prints.
Nolde had worked in a furniture factory before becoming an artist, so
the technique of woodcutting suited his abilities.

In Prophet, his most famous print, Nolde exploits the characteristics inherent to the medium. Coarsely gouged-out areas, jagged lines, and the textured grain of the wood effectively combine in this portrayal of a fervent believer. The brooding face confronts the viewer with an immediacy and deep emotion that leave no doubt about the prophet’s spirituality. Three years before Nolde executed Prophet, while recovering from an illness, he experienced a religious transformation. Afterward, he began depicting religious subjects in paintings and prints. Art historians have suggested that the hollow eyes, furrowed brow, and sunken cheeks of this figure represent a self-portrait. Regardless, the figure’s messianic countenance is considered one of the quintessential prints of German Expressionism.