Emil Nolde, one of the early Expressionist painters, created Mask Still Life III in 1911. The painting depicts five masks with a range of grotesque expressions and vivid colors, arranged in a dynamic composition that is anything but still. Nolde’s fascination for other cultures is evident in this painting where he captured the quintessence of various cultures on one canvas through masks from around the world.
The central carnival masks are surrounded by an African Chokwe mask and a shrunken head of a Yoruna Indian from Brazil. All these masks convey different emotions ranging from terror to playfulness bounded by an exhilarating energy. Such diversity was readily available for sale in Europe during the time when exoticism was being integrated into western art motifs.
Nolde’s expressive brushwork and bold color choices were signatures of Expressionism art style. Critics described Mask Still Life III as terrifying yet bizarrely playful due to its provocative subject matter and surrealistic character depictions that go beyond facial expressions. Although Mask Still Life III may seem visually stimulating at first glance, it provides deeper insights into cultural exchanges during periods of colonialism and globalization.