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Franz Marc – Virtual Tour

Franz Marc

Franz Marc – Virtual Tour

Franz Marc (1880 – 1916) was a German painter and printmaker and one of the key figures of German Expressionism.

A Virtual Tour of Franz Marc

Franz Marc

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 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The German government identified notable artists to be withdrawn from combat for their safety.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.

Highlights Tour of Franz Marc’s Art


Tiger by Franz Marc is one of the artist’s several depictions of animals in the Expressionist style. Tiger demonstrates a sense of restlessness, 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 color and acute angles, which are contained within the bold, black outline.

The central motif of this painting is the tiger, surrounded by a colorful, jungle landscape. The tiger’s recognizable dark stripes characterize 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 colorful, 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 color 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 colors 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 color in this work. Museum: The Guggenheim


“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 defenseless 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 that sweeps diagonally across the canvas. The branches of this tree form a giant scythe symbolizing 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 center 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,  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 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

“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

“Grazing Horses IV, Three Red Horses” by Franz Marc. In 1911, the Der Blaue Reiter group was preoccupied with questions of color, and it was 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 color from its descriptive function and assigned each primary color 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

“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 geometrically 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 artist’s 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 horses 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 colored shapes.

The patterns of the horses’ tails and the shifting planes of colors 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

“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 color with echos of stained glass.

With variations of color saturation, he created many compelling paintings featuring horses. Museum: Sprengel Museum

Gebirge (Mountains)

Mountains by Franz Marc depicts the stepping stones of a mountain that reach to the orange sun at the summit.  Marc’s desire to attain a higher state of spirituality is shown in this expression of wanting to go towards a higher realm.

This painting was first painted in 1911 and was titled “Landschaft” (Landscape). It was then repainted in 1912 after Marc visited Robert Delaunay in Paris as a new version, retitled “Gebirge” (Mountains).

The renewed version was fused with the influences of Orphism, Cubism, and Futurism, making it Marc’s most multi-style painting. 

Delaunay’s Orphism, which focused on abstraction and brilliant hues are reflected in Marc’s different color planes, which combine to create a surface of multicolored light.

Cubism is suggested by the fractured, prismatic forms that define the landscape. The thrusting prisms also generate a dynamic, colorful effect reminiscent of Futurism.

Tale of Creation – Genesis II

“Tale of Creation,” also known as “Genesis II” by Franz Marc, is a colored print from woodcut, illustrating the creation story in the Book of Genesis. Pure and uncorrupted life emerges from a chaotic and dynamic swirl of interlocking forms.

Color for Marc came to embody emotional and spiritual states. Animals were frequent subjects in his paintings, as Marc considered them more spiritual and closer to nature than humans.

Marc, in this woodcut print, was influenced by his studies of early printed Bibles and their woodcut illustrations.

Marc was planned to include this print in an illustrated Bible he was organizing for the Blaue Reiter, the Munich-based artist group he cofounded. 

However, by 1914 at the beginning of World War I, when Franz Marc created Schöpfungsgeschichte II (Genesis II), he had lost his faith that the natural world could provide an antidote to what he viewed as a sick society. Museum: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art,  National Gallery of Art, DC, Museum of Modern Art, NY, Guggenheim Museum

Franz Marc

Franz Marc: A collection of 338 works

The work of Franz Marc: Expressing the being of animals

A Virtual Tour of Artists and their Art

Franz Marc The Man Who Painted Blue Horses and Yellow Cows

Franz Marc Quotes


“What appears spectral today will be natural tomorrow.”


“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.” ‘


“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.”


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


“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 color which must be fought and conquered by the other two.”


“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..”


“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.”


“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.”


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


“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.”


“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.”


German Expressionist Artists – Franz Marc

Franz Marc Biography


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


Photo Credit: August Macke [Public domain]

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