Blue Horse by Franz Marc: An Analysis Of All The blue horses 

Blue Horse (1911) by Franz Mark. Public Domain

It is nearly impossible to progress with the times if artists merely replicate the objective world on a two-dimensional plane. Expressionism is one such art movement that relies upon the subjective emotional experience of artists, where reality has been molded in a way to depict the psychology of the painter. Thus, expressionism almost always gives rise to “never before seen” art. Blue Horse by Franz Marc reflects a transition phase in his career from pure expressionism to modernism. 

A pioneer of the German expressionist movement, Franz Marc catalyzed the development of art all over the world.

The Concept of Blue Horse

About Franz Marc

Franz Marc Self Portrait
Franz Marc Self Portrait. Public Domain

Franz Marc was a German painter who belonged to a family of artists. His early art style has a hint of realism but the major style is expressionistic in nature. Marc mostly painted animals, landscapes, and the natural environment in general.

Slowly his work lost all attributes of realism as he tended more towards abstract symbolism, cubism, and futurism. He visited Paris in 1903 as a young art scholar. By 1914 Marc had established a steady career and was a well-known artist. 

With the advent of WW1, Marc decided to go to battle and was on the front lines in the Battle of Verdun. At the age of 36, he took a shrapnel to the head and died, leaving behind a military knapsack filled with emotional and spiritual drawings of animals.

The Blue Rider

“Der Blue Rieter” or “The Blue Rider” is one of Marc’s most notable collaborative works. The Blue Rider was a journal created by eminent artists like Marc, Kadinsky, and Macke among others. This journal was born out of Marc and Kadinsky’s mutual love for the color blue, horses, and riders. 

The blue rider committee was held together by the notion that art is spiritual and that it can heal humanity from all the hurt it has been experiencing.

Blue Horse
Blue Horse (1911) by Franz Mark – Graphic Art. Public Domain

Spirituality in art 

Both Franz Marc and Wassily Kadinsky shared an affinity for the color blue. Blue for them was part of something bigger than the physical realm of being. The color holds slightly different meanings for each artist, but for both it largely signifies spirituality.

“..the deeper the blue becomes, the more strongly it calls man towards the infinite, awakening in him a desire for the pure and, finally, the supernatural…” 

Wassily Kadinsky

“Blue is the masculine principle, astringent and spiritual. Yellow is the female principle, gentle, gay, and sensuous.”

Franz Marc

 Through animals, Franz depicted the “good” in the world. Nature represents a clear and realistic awareness of life. Humanity can no longer be in harmony with nature as it was in its earliest stages because of corruption, rage, and deceit. Therefore, in order to reconnect to one’s pure self art and nature is the only option.

Marc was mesmerized by the anatomy and symbolism of animals. He was deeply interested in the world of animals which is so in harmony with the world around them. 

Why the Blue Horses?

Through Marc’s early work it has been established that he exclusively depicted the purity of nature in his paintings. As he progressed further in his career, we see a strong inclination toward animals, especially horses. 

Franz Marc decided to paint animals because they symbolized innocence and a world before the downfall of humanity. He particularly chose horses probably because of his mutual interest in the animal with Kadinsky, or the sense of freedom and vitality that horses exude. Thus, horses stood for both liberation and spiritual chastity.

Franz Marc’s Blue Horses

Blue Horse I

Blue Horse (1911) by Franz Mark. Public Domain
Blue Horse aI (1911) by Franz Mark. Public Domain

Blue Horse I was painted by Franz Marc in the year 1911, the same year as Der Blue Rieter. The painting is presently at the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus in Munich.

Marc’s Blue Horse represents a free search for spirituality amidst nature. The painting features a magnificent blue horse surrounded by vibrant primary colors. Dome-shaped hills are layered on top of each other without the contours or the colors mixing with one another. The landscape in the background creates shapes that echo the contours of the animal. 

The Blue horse replicates the shapes of the landscape creating harmony with the primary colors. A yellowish cloud at the bottom of the hills ties the landscape together and also gives it a surreal appearance. The bright backdrop strikes a pleasing contrast with the blue horse. 

The horse’s feet have been depicted clearly, however, no attempt has been made to show how its weight is distributed over its hooves. Its hooves appear to be floating above the hills without any shadows and anatomical differences suggesting otherwise.   

Marc created this hovering effect with the help of mutually contrasting colors such as blue for the hooves and red for the ground. One may also notice that while two of the horse’s hooves seem to be levitating, the other two seem to be firmly set on the green ground. Perhaps this is an attempt to show a transition from reality to spirituality.

The blue shading on the horse gives its skin a youthful and healthy appearance. The muscular contours with healthy skin hint at the animal’s vitality, masculinity, and energy. The blue horse has been shown in a light that portrays it as an otherwordly creature, enhancing its spiritual purity. 

Blue Horse II

Blue Horse (1911) by Franz Mark. Public Domain
Blue Horse II (1911) by Franz Mark. Public Domain

Soon after “Blue Horse I”, Franz Marc painted “Blue Horse II” in 1911. Today this oil on canvas is located at the Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland. In “Blue Horse II” the audience assumes the horse’s point of view to understand the world before it. The painting closely resembles Caspar David Friedrich’s 1818 oil painting “Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog”. Both paintings have similar philosophical and surreal themes. 

The main difference between the Blue horse I and II is the absence of the color Red. 

Red is matter, brutal and heavy, and always the color that the other two must oppose and overcome!

Franz Marc

Thus, the feminine yellow and masculine blue seem to have overcome the violent red in this painting. The absence of red implies the achievement of purity and a clear awareness of life. A strong wind blows the horse’s tail and mane gracefully toward the left. 

We can again notice that the horses’ hooves seem to be floating over the landscape. The animal seems to be standing on a bright blue path or maybe a stream of water. Here, the color blue could mean several things. 

For Marc blue represented spirituality, purity, and innocence, the path could thus symbolize a road to harmony. Blue has often been referred to as the color of longing which is closely tied to Marc’s unending search for spirituality.

The Large blue Horses 

Large Blue Horses (1911) by Franz Mark.
Large Blue Horses (1911) by Franz Mark. Public Domain

In the year 1911, Franz Marc painted another work with blue horses titled “The Large Blue Horses”. This 1911 oil on canvas is situated at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

In this painting, we may see several similarities with blue horse I. There is a very noticeable exaggerated curve in the spine of the blue horses and also in the bright red hills in the background. 

While the contours are in harmony the colors are not. The red hills and the blue horses are extremely saturated. It seems as it the spiritual blue is as strong as the brutal red that needs to be overcome. 

The Tower of Blue Horses 

Tower of Horses anstract painting by Franz Marc
The Tower of Horses (1911) by Franz Marc. Public Domain

The Tower of blue horses is clearly more modern in style than any of Marc’s Prior paintings featuring blue horses. Due to the sharp straight contours, the painting seems vastly more dynamic and violent. From “Blue Horse I” to “The Tower of Blue Horses” we see a gradual change in the anatomy of horses. His horses were more realistic at first but later they become more abstract.


After 1912, blue becomes increasingly difficult to find in Marc’s art. Perhaps with the outbreak of several wars around the world, it was hard for the artist to find spirituality and purity in the world. According to Marc, art was an indispensable tool that allowed us to connect to our roots and our instincts –

“On the whole instincts have never failed to guide me, especially the instinct that led me away from man’s awareness of life and towards that of a pure animal…”


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the meaning of Large Blue Horses by Franz Marc?

Franz Marc’s 1911 painting “Large Blue Horses” was a direct representation of his subjective feelings about the outcome of world war 1. According to his wife, Marc believed that the painting was a premonition about the brutality of the ongoing war. The three blue horses in the center are a representation of the artist’s search for spirituality, harmony, and tranquility in the middle of the surrounding hostility represented by the red hills.

What’s the meaning of the blue horse?

Through Marc’s early work it has been established that he exclusively depicted the purity of nature in his paintings. As he progressed further in his career, we see a strong inclination toward animals, especially horses. 

Franz Marc decided to paint animals because they symbolized innocence and a world before the downfall of humanity.  He particularly chose horses probably because of his mutual interest in the animal with Kadinsky, or the sense of freedom and vitality that horses exude. Horses are therefore a metaphor for freedom and innocence.

What medium is blue horses?

Franz Marc’s 1911 painting “The Large Blue Horses” or simply “The Blue Horses” is an oil on canvas work. 

Is the Large Blue Horses abstract?

Franz Marc’s 1911 “Large Blue Horses” is not a purely abstract painting. The painting has strong features of expressionism which have been shown through a distorted but rather symmetrical fashion. Its deep symbolism along with the distortion of reality makes the painting abstract as well. 

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