Franz Marc 1880-1916 BACK

Marc was a German Expressionist painter born in Munich; he studied philosophy and theology at the University and then painting at the Academy. He was one of the founders of the Blaue Reiter group in Munich in 1911. Working in close association with Kandinsky, Marc explored the expressive values of colour. This preoccupation with colour was partly inspired by the Orphist paintings of Delaunay, whom he visited in Paris with Macke in 1912, and probably also by Goethe's Farbenlehre. Although he remained a painter of animals, paintings like Tiger (1912) are primarily expressive through their simple planes of colour; and in Fighting Forms (1914) he was nearing a point of abstract expressionism. Yet Marc never turned to animal paintings as a genre. Rather, his groups of horses and deer are substitutes for people in his art. When World War I broke out he joined the army voluntarily and with great enthusiasm. Later he was killed at Verdun in 1916.

An excerpt from Expressionism by Dietmar Elger
In 1912 Macke and Marc travelled to Paris where they visited Delaunay. Marc found fresh inspiration in the Orphism of Delatmay's window paintings, which were to have a considerable influence on his own style and to lead to a renewal in his use of form. On his way back he passed through Cologne and became acquainted with Futurist works at an exhibition there, for which he expressed "unrestrained enthusiasm". His large-format painting Mews of 1913 is a synthesis of both experiences. In his composition of the painting, Marc had abandoned the expressive simplicity of monochrome areas. Instead, the colours are subject to a complicated surface arrangement. The motif has been broken up prismatically and consists exclusively of straight lines running vertically or diagonally, angles and circular shapes. The depiction of the horses' bodies and the mews thus acquires a dynamic simultaneity, with a variety of perspectives. The fragmented forms penetrate one another, the colours have attained a degree of transparence hitherto unknown.

From about 1913 onwards, Marc's attitude towards animals began to change. He had started off by excluding man from his paintings, because he saw him as a relatively "impure" creature, cut off from his original sources. During the last years of his life, however, his sense of animals became increasingly broken, too. At first he had tried to overcome the conventions of animal paintings, while at the same time seeking an artistic expression of the way "an animal sees the world". Now he began to see animals in the same light as man - ugly and repulsive - "so that his depiction instinctively became ... more and more schematic and abstract. From one year to the next, trees, flowers, the earth, everything showed me more and more ugly and repulsive sides, and so it was not until now that I became aware of the hideousness of nature and its impurity." His experience of Delaunay's Orphism as well as Futurism enabled him to draw the necessary practical conclusions for his artistic style from these theoretical insights. In paintings such as The Mandrill andHorse, Dreaming - both 1913 - the unspoilt Naturalist image of animals is broken up, fragmented and replaced by a complicated simultaneity of different perspectives. It followed logically that Marc's next step was non-representational art, without any Naturalist sources whatever. Marc took this step at the turn of the year 1913/14, thus continuing a development which had already been started four years earlier by Kandinsky. Shortly before the First World War, Marc created four paintings as a demonstration of the artistic options that were provided by his newly acquired abstract stylistic range - Cheerful Forms (destroyed), Playing Forms (Estate of the Artist, Munich), Forms in Combat and Broken Forms (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York). Their very titles suggest that a certain freedom of composition has been attained. This sequence of four paintings seems to have been a prophecy of the impending war, even in its development, from "playing" via "combat" to "broken" forms. Landscape motifs can hardly be recognized at all in the Forms in Combat. Rather, the painting is dominated by two large red and black shapes, swirling around dynamically. They divide the surface diagonally into a bright, colourful zone and a dark one. The colours penetrate one another at their boundaries and engulf the forms.

When war broke out in 1914, Marc joined the armyvoluntarily andwith great enthusiasm. He was one of those artists who took a very rosy view of the war and saw it as a great communal adventure that would cleanse and renew society. "This is the only way of cleaning out the Augean stable of Europe," he wrote to Kandinsky, "or is there a single person who does not wish this war might happen?" However, he hardly had any opportunity to start any new paintings, and he mainly produced small pencil drawings in sketch books. On 4 March 1916, Marc fell near Verdun.

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Image List

Little Blue Horses, 1911

The Yellow Cow, 1911

Gazelles, 1913

Dreaming Horse, 1913

Small Composition, 1913

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