Incorrect Username, Email, or Password
This object does not yet have a description.

Gallery Text

A growing metropolis in the early 20th century, Berlin attracted diverse ethnic groups, particularly in the realms of art and theater. When he visited, Nolde avidly depicted scenes of modern urban life, including this portrait of a stage performer. The bright yellow circle surrounding the woman like a halo evokes a mirror, and the garish orange of the background reflects the gaslight backstage. Nolde’s title for this painting refers to the subject’s mixed-race heritage. In common use then, the term is now considered offensive for the way it devalues people based on their Black ancestry. The year Nolde painted this work, 1913, was the same year legislation was passed in Germany that made “German blood” the sole criterion for citizenship, as a way to exclude Germans of African descent — a law that was changed only in 2000. Represented here in vibrant colors, the unnamed subject lived and worked in Germany despite having no legal protection. Race is central to recent deconstructions of Nolde’s self-stylized myth. He openly supported the National Socialists, even after they officially denounced his work and included this painting in the infamous “Degenerate Art” exhibition in 1937. Ironically, in spite of the artist’s own antisemitism and his support for the Nazi party, his painting has become a familiar symbol of the art they so vigorously suppressed.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Emil Nolde, German (Nolde, Germany 1867 - 1956 Seebüll, Germany)
Other Titles
Original Language Title: Mulattin
Former Title: The Mulatto
Work Type
Persistent Link


Level 1, Room 1500, Modern and Contemporary Art, Art in Germany Between the Wars
View this object's location on our interactive map

Physical Descriptions

Oil on canvas
77.5 x 73 cm (30 1/2 x 28 3/4 in.)
framed: 91.4 x 87.2 x 3 cm (36 x 34 5/16 x 1 3/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: signed on recto at l.l.: Nolde
  • inscription: On stretcher verso, in black paint: Emil Nolde "Mulatin"
  • label: On stretcher verso: Feigl Gallery / 601 Madison Ave / New York City / Emil NOLDE / "Mulatto" / No. 803


Recorded Ownership History
Rosy and Ludwig Fischer, Frankfurt am Main, (?-1924,) sold; to the Städtisches Museum Moritzburg, Halle, (1924-1937), removed from the collection by the National Socialist (Nazi) authorities, 1937 (EK 16048). Private collection, Germany, sold; [Feigl Gallery], 1954, sold; to Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1954.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, G. David Thompson Fund
© Nolde Stiftung Seebüll, Germany
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art

The Harvard Art Museums encourage the use of images found on this website for personal, noncommercial use, including educational and scholarly purposes. To request a higher resolution file of this image, please submit an online request.

Publication History

  • Charles L. Kuhn, German Expressionism and Abstract Art, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1957), frontispiece, pp. ix, 60
  • Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings from the Fogg Art Museum, exh. cat., Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, NY, 1967), cat. 46
  • Charles Werner Haxthausen, "The Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard: the Germanic Tradition", Apollo (May 1978), vol. 107, no. 195, pp. 403-413, p. 410
  • Expressionism: A German Intuition 1905-1920, exh. cat., The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation (New York, 1980), p. 67, cat. 33, ill. (color)
  • Charles Werner Haxthausen, The Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University, Abbeville Press (New York, NY, 1980), p. 32, repr. p. 33
  • Kristin A. Mortimer and William G. Klingelhofer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums and Abbeville Press (Cambridge and New York, 1986), no. 373, p. 313, repr.
  • Peter Nisbet and Emilie Norris, Busch-Reisinger Museum: History and Holdings, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1991), p. 64, ill.
  • Sabrina Abate Detmar, "Drei Beispiele von Frauendarstellung in Bildern des Primitivismus : Paul Gauguins "Poèmes barbares", 1896, Erich Heckels "Genesende", 1913 und Emil Noldes "Mulattin", 1913" (2004)
  • Peter Nisbet and Joseph Koerner, The Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, ed. Peter Nisbet, Harvard University Art Museums and Scala Publishers Ltd. (Cambridge, MA and London, England, 2007), p. 171
  • Bauhaus Meister Moderne: Das Comeback, exh. cat., Kunstmuseum Moritzburg, Halle (Saale) and E.A. Seemann Verlag (Leipzig, 2019), pp. 31, 109, 253, cat. no. III/16, fig. 116, ill. (color)

Exhibition History

  • Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings from the Fogg Art Museum, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, 05/08/1967 - 06/11/1967
  • Works from the 20th Century Collection of the Busch-Reisinger, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 06/15/1980 - 09/01/1980; Wildenstein Gallery, New York, New York, 09/23/1980 - 10/24/1980
  • Expressionism: A German Intuition, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 11/14/1980 - 01/18/1981; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 02/19/1981 - 04/26/1981
  • Deutsche Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts aus dem Busch-Reisinger Museum, Stadtische Galerie im Stadelschen Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt, 10/23/1982 - 01/16/1983; Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin 30, 02/10/1983 - 04/17/1983; Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, 05/08/1983 - 06/26/1983
  • "Degenerate Art": The Fate of the Avant Garde in Nazi Germany, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 06/20/1991 - 09/08/1991
  • Modern Art at Harvard, Bunkamura Museum of Art, Tokyo, 07/31/1999 - 09/26/1999; Takamatsu City Museum of Art, Kagawa, 10/09/1999 - 11/14/1999; Matsuzakaya Art Museum, Nagoya, 12/02/1999 - 12/27/1999; Oita City Museum, Oita, 01/06/2000 - 02/06/2000; Museum of Modern Art, Ibaraki, Ibaraki, 02/11/2000 - 03/26/2000
  • Re-View: S118 European & American Art since 1900, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 09/13/2008 - 04/09/2011
  • Re-View: European and American Art Since 1900, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 05/03/2011 - 06/01/2013
  • 32Q: 1500 Art in Germany Between the Wars (Expressionism-Interwar), Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 08/05/2019; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/04/2021 - 01/01/2050
  • Bauhaus Masters Modernism. The Comeback, Kunstmuseum Moritzburg, Halle (Saale), Halle (Saale), 09/29/2019 - 01/12/2020

Subjects and Contexts

  • ReFrame

Related Media

Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art at