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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Franz Marc

Franz Marc

Franz Marc

Franz Marc (1880 – 1916) was a German painter and printmaker and one of the key figures of German Expressionism. He was a founding member of Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), a journal whose name later became synonymous with the circle of artists collaborating in it.

Marc showed several of his works in the first Der Blaue Reiter exhibition in Munich between in 1911 and1912. As it was the apex of the German expressionist movement, the exhibit also showed in Berlin, Cologne, Hagen, and Frankfurt. By 1912, Marc became fascinated by futurism and cubism, and he created art that increasingly was stark and abstract. He painted The Tiger and Red Deer in 1912 and The Tower of Blue Horses, Foxes, and Fate of the Animals in 1913, in the years just before the Great War.

With the outbreak of World War I, Marc was drafted into the German Army as a cavalryman. By 1916, he had gravitated to military camouflage. His technique for hiding artillery from aerial observation was to paint canvas covers in a broadly pointillist style. He created a series of nine such tarpaulin covers in styles varying “from Manet to Kandinsky”, suspecting that the latter could be the most effective against aircraft flying above 2000 meters.

The German government identified notable artists to be withdrawn from combat for their safety. Marc was on the list, but he was unfortunately struck in the head and killed instantly by a shell splinter during the Battle of Verdun in 1916 before orders for reassignment reach him.

A Tour of Franz Marc’s Art

  • Tiger
    • Tiger by Franz Marc is one of the artist’s several depictions of animals in the Expressionist style. Tiger demonstrates a sense of restlessness, of tension, imminence and anticipation. The landscape is composed entirely of cubic forms rendered in bright luminous tones. The tiger is disturbed from its rest; its head has risen, its yellow eyes fixed upon its next prey or the impending danger. The tiger’s strength is represented by intersecting shards of colour and acute angles which are contained within the bold, black outline. The central motif of this painting is the tiger, surrounded by a colourful, jungle landscape. The tiger’s recognisable dark stripes characterise the picture on yellowish fur and the dynamic jungle background. Tiger forms part of Marc’s formative phase, during which he became fascinated by futurism and cubism, in which he created art that was increasingly stark and abstract. This work is filled with tension, with a sense of apprehension, with a presentiment of quick and sudden death. Museum: Lenbachhaus
  • Yellow Cow
    • “The Yellow Cow” by Franz Marc is one of Marc’s several depictions of animals in the Expressionist style. The painting depicts a yellow jumping cow, surrounded by a colourful, structured landscape. The painting is a contrast between the dynamic yellow frolicking cow and a natural world filled with hidden forms. A back-to-nature movement that swept the artistic communities in the early years of the twentieth century greatly influenced Franz Marc. Marc found this nature-oriented quest for spiritual redemption an inspiration for his art. He felt that animals possessed a certain godliness that men had lost. In 1915, during the war, he wrote: “People with their lack of piety, especially men, never touched my true feelings, But animals with their virginal sense of life awakened all that was good in me.” Yellow Cow dates to Marc’s formative phase, during which he developed the colour symbolism that permeates the painting. The symbolist painters used mythological and dream imagery. The symbols used by symbolism are not the familiar emblems of mainstream iconography but intensely personal, private, obscure and ambiguous references. More a philosophy than an actual style of art. For Marc, blue was equated with spirituality and maleness, yellow with femininity and sensuality, and red with the earth. The colours in the painting are symbolically representing the sense of the objects in the artwork. The Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky greatly influenced Marc’s use of colour in this work. Museum: The Guggenheim
  • Tyrol
    • “Tyrol” by Franz Marc is one of his final artworks painted before his death at the age of 36, during the Battle of Verdun. It is a dark departure from his previous playful works, such as the “The Yellow Cow”. Tyrol is a scene of cataclysmic destruction, in which the heavens have parted and an exploding world rains down destruction on a defenceless village. Two small white cottages are shown on a hill, low on the canvas, next to two dead trees. In the foreground, is another thin, burnt tree stump which sweeps diagonally across the canvas. The branches of this tree form a giant scythe symbolising death. A year after “Tyrol” was painted Marc added the motif of the “Woman of the Apocalypse” immediately above the diagonal tree, indicating that a rebirth of humanity would follow the destruction of the evil society, the motif spoke of the coming “Age of Righteousness”. Museum: Alte Pinakothek
  • The Tower of Blue Horses
    • “The Tower of Blue Horses” by Franz Marc shows a group of four frontally staggered horses in blue shades with heads turned to the left with muscular, almost life-sized bodies dominate the picture. The four primarily blue horses, arranged in a tier to the right of the centre of the picture. On the left side of the picture is an abstract rock landscape in yellow, brown and red tones, which is arched over by an orange striped rainbow on a yellow background. The rainbow and the crescent moon, as well as the crosses on the body of the first horse in the foreground of the image,  expressed the artist’s intention to represent the unity of cosmos and nature. After World War I, this painting was acquired by the Berlin National Gallery. It was removed from there as part of the “cleansing” of modern artworks under the Nazis, and included in the “Degenerate Art Exhibition” which opened in July 1937 in Munich. However, in response to a protest by veterans, because Marc had died fighting for his country in the World War I, the painting was removed and was not included in the exhibition when it opened in Berlin. It was instead transferred to Hermann Göring’s custody which went missing at war’s end. Museum: Uknown, Stolen or Lost
  • Horse Paintings by Franz Marc
    • “Blue Horse I” by Franz Marc from 1911, the same year that Marc founded The Blue Riders (Der Blaue Reiter). This group of artists united in rejection of earlier conventions. The group was founded by several Russian emigrants, including Wassily Kandinsky and native German artists, such as Franz Marc. Der Blaue Reiter was an art movement lasting from 1911 to 1914 and was fundamental to Expressionism. Museum: Lenbachhaus
    • Grazing Horses IV, Three Red Horses by Franz Marc. In 1911, the Der Blaue Reiter group was preoccupied with questions of colour, and it was at during this debate that Marc started working on Grazing Horses IV. He wanted to give form to his inner experience and to free himself from formal constraints; he wanted to detach colour from its descriptive function and assigned each primary colour a symbolic value. As this painting’s numeric title suggests, Marc repeatedly returned to the horse as a subject. Museum: Harvard Art Museums
    • Dreaming Horse by Franz Marc depicts a male horse sleeping. In Marc’s art, blue represents masculinity and spirituality. The sleeping horse is surrounded by nature depicted in a geometric manner with reds and greens. The use of black and red contrasts with the green, which represents a place of rest such as grass. This painting provides us with a sense of the artists struggle for peace and tranquillity in what were becoming turbulent times, leading up to World War I. The motifs in “Dreaming Horse” are characteristic of his love for animals as are the Cubistic and Fauvist styles which influenced Marc’s Art. Museum: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
    • Stables by Franz Marc depicts the images of horse and stables as almost indistinguishable. The artist arranged a group of red, blue, and white horses within a framework of parallel and crossing diagonals. Massed on the picture plane, the horses are transformed into flat coloured shapes. The patterns of the horses’ tails and the shifting planes of colours suggest the influence of the Futurists whom Marc had met during a trip to Paris in 1912. Museum: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
    • Horses and Eagle by Franz Marc demonstrate Marc’s attempt to immerse himself in the animal’s soul. He wondered about how nature reflects in the eyes of animals. The composition of many of his later works was dominated by geometric structure and the use of colour with echos of stained glass, and with variations of colour saturation, he created many compelling paintings featuring horses. Museum: Sprengel Museum

Franz Marc

A Tour of Artists and their Art

Reflections

  • He created military camouflage in styles varying from Manet to Kandinsky.
  • “Art has always been and is in its very essence, the boldest departure from nature. It is the bridge into the spirit world.”

Franz Marc Quotes

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“What appears spectral today will be natural tomorrow.”

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“I never, for instance, have the urge to paint animals ‘the way I see them,’ but rather the way they are… The way they look at the world and feel their being.”‘

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“Today, we are searching for things in nature that are hidden behind the veil of appearance… We look for and paint this inner, spiritual side of nature.”

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“Art has always been and is in its very essence, the boldest departure from nature. It is the bridge into the spirit world.”

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“Blue is the male principle, stern and spiritual. Yellow the female principle, gentle, cheerful and sensual. Red is matter, brutal and heavy and always the colour which must be fought and conquered by the other two.”

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“Like everything genuine, its inner life guarantees its truth. All works of art created by truthful minds without regard for the work’s conventional exterior remain genuine for all times..”

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“Art is nothing but the expression of our dream; the more we surrender to it the closer we get to the inner truth of things, our dream-life, the true life that scorns questions and does not see them.”

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“Today, art is moving in the direction of which our fathers would never even have dreamed. We stand before the new pictures as in a dream, and we hear the apocalyptic horsemen in the air. ”

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“Is there a more mysterious idea than to imagine how nature is reflected in the eyes of animals?”

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“The great artists do not seek their forms amid the past but take the deepest soundings they can of the genuine, most profound of their age.”

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“Serious art has been the work of individual artists whose art has had nothing to do with ‘style’ because they were not in the least connected with the style or the needs of the masses. Their works arose rather in defiance of their times.”

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“Art will liberate itself from the needs and desires of men.” 
– Franz Marc

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Photo Credit: August Macke [Public domain]

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