Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

As the metropolis grew, Berlin attracted diverse ethnic groups, particularly in the realms of art and theater. Nolde wintered in the German capital each year and, while there, depicted scenes of modern urban life. The subject’s jewelry and heavily applied makeup suggest that she is a stage performer, while the bright yellow circle surrounding her like a halo evokes a backstage mirror. The work’s title hints at Nolde’s primary interest in his subject: her race. Like many of his expressionist contemporaries, such as Erich Heckel or Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Nolde cultivated an interest in non-European people and cultures, believing them to possess elemental “authentic” qualities. Shortly after completing this painting, he embarked on a government-sponsored colonial expedition to New Guinea. After his journey to the South Seas, he raised objections to colonialism on the basis that it was detrimental to the racial integrity and creative originality of so-called primitive cultures.

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
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, 07/01/2021 - 01/01/2050

Bauhaus Masters Modernism. The Comeback, Kunstmuseum Moritzburg, Halle (Saale), Halle (Saale), 09/29/2019 - 01/12/2020

Related Media

"Re-View" Guide By Cell audio tour: The Mulatto, Emil Nolde [BR54.117]

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