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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Horse Paintings by Franz Marc

Horse Paintings by Franz Marc

Blue Horse I by Franz Marc

Franz Marc created many paintings featuring animals and among his most popular and famous animal paintings are his paintings of horses. His perspective evolved, but at some level, he was attempting to imagine the view through the animal’s eyes. Marc became preoccupied with animals, seeing them as the embodiment of a better, purer world, the bringers of spiritual renewal to Western culture.

The above example is “Blue Horse I” by Franz Marc from 1911, the same year that Marc was a joint founder of 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.

Blue Horse I

  • Title:              Blue Horse I
  • Deutsch:        Blaues Pferd I
  • Artist:             Franz Marc
  • Medium:        Oil on canvas
  • Date:             1911
  • Movement:    Expressionist
  • Dimensions:  Height: 112 cm (44 ″); Width: 84.5 cm (33.2 ″)
  • Museum:      Lenbachhaus

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Horse Paintings

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.

This painting first belonged to a German Museum, which was at the vanguard of contemporary art collecting at the time. This picture was removed from the collection in 1937 as part of the Nazi campaign to rid German museums of “degenerate art.”

Grazing Horses IV, Three Red Horses

  • Title:               Grazing Horses IV, Three Red Horses
  • Artist:             Franz Marc
  • Date:             1911
  • Movement:    Expressionist
  • Dimensions:  Height: 121 cm (47.6 ″); Width: 183 cm (72 ″)
  • Museum:       Harvard Art Museums

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GUGG Dreaming Horse

Dreaming Horse by Franz Marc

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 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.

Dreaming Horse

  • Title:              Dreaming Horse
  • Deutsch:        Träumendes Pferd.
  • Artist:             Franz Marc
  • Medium:        Watercolour painting, Watercolor, gouache, ink, and graphite on paper
  • Date:             1913
  • Movement:    Expressionist
  • Dimensions:   Height: 39.6 cm (15.5 ″); Width: 46.8 cm (18.4 ″)
  • Museum:       Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

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Horse Paintings by Franz Marc

Stables by Franz Marc

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. The horses are massed on the picture plane and 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.

Like Vasily Kandinsky, Franz Marc was searching for ways to reflect inner spiritual and emotional states through art. Marc’s approach was focused on nature and was founded on the belief that animals possessed a certain godliness that humanity had long since lost.  During the period of this painting, Marc had become increasingly interested in abstract pictorial modes to express universal truths. Rather than portraying the natural world from the point of view of the individual animal, as he had previously, Marc depicted his subjects as part of a larger unified cosmos and treated his horse depictions in terms of the overall structure of the composition.

Stables

  • Title:               Stables
  • German:         Stallungen
  • Artist:             Franz Marc
  • Medium:        Oil on canvas
  • Date:             1913
  • Movement:    Expressionist
  • Dimensions:   29 x 62 inches (73.6 x 157.5 cm)
  • Museum:       Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

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Horse Paintings by Franz Marc

Horses and Eagle by Franz Marc

Horses and Eagle by Franz Marc demonstrate Marc’s attempt to immerse himself in the animal’s soul. He imagined 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.

Marc had a nature-oriented quest for spiritual redemption as his inspiration for his art. He felt that animals possessed a certain godliness that men had lost. Also, as a symbolist painter, Marc used mythological and dream imagery. The symbols he used had personal, private and ambiguous references. 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.

Horses and Eagle by Franz Marc

  • Title:              Horses and Eagle by Franz Marc
  • German:        Pferde und Adler
  • Artist:             Franz Marc
  • Medium:        Oil on canvas
  • Date:              1912
  • Movement:    Expressionist
  • Dimensions:  100 x 135.5 cm
  • Museum:      Sprengel Museum

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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.

Franz Marc

A Tour of Artists and their Art

Reflections

  • Marc became preoccupied with Horses, seeing them as the embodiment of a better, purer world, the bringers of spiritual renewal to Western culture.
  • How many ways can you paint a Horse?
  • Which style do you prefer?

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

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Photo Credit: Franz Marc [Public domain]

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