At a time when it was quite bold to share one’s personal emotions publicly, a group of artists made the first move. The expressionist movement was born as a result of emotional catharsis through art. A pioneer of the German Expressionist movement, Franz Marc was a gifted artist born in the late 19th century.
During his short career, he has made priceless contributions to the art community. Following is a short discussion about the life and career of Franz Marc.
About Franz Marc and his Art
Marc’s art is not only unique but also very personal. Every color and contour exudes different tones of energy giving rise to varying themes of spirituality.
Born in Munich, Germany in the year 1880, Franz Marc was artistically influenced by his father. Marc started off as a landscape painter from an early age. He began to study art formally at the Academy of Fine Arts, Germany in 1900.
After his schooling, he first visited Paris in 1903 as a young art scholar. Little did he know that this would be the land where he would lose his life. Marc was on the front lines in the Battle of Verdun. This was the longest battle of World War I spanning 300 days.
Marc died quite early on in the war at the young age of 36, leaving behind a sketchbook with several emotionally charged lithographs.
Marc’s first inspiration was perhaps his father, who influenced him to explore his artisitic abilities. Franz was greatly influenced by Parisian art and artists during his 1903 and 1911 visits to France.
He was greatly influenced by the works of Van Gogh, Gaugin, and Picasso and began to study their art styles closely. In the process of his meticulous observation of other art forms, Marc soon developed his distinctive style.
While other expressionists of the time tried to display their political stance through art, Marc took a different approach. He chose to depict deeper human emotions and spirituality through his art.
Franz Marc Paintings
One of Franz’s most notable works is a journal titled ‘Der blue Rieter’ or ‘The Blue Rider’. He created this concept in collaboration with Wassily Kadinsky and other eminent artists of the time. The journal is an amalgamation of Kadinsky’s interest in riders and Marc’s interest in horses.
This group of artists received their share of criticism before they finally became a stepping stone for contemporary artists to express themselves. Following are some of the most famous Franz Marc Paintings:
The Foxes (1913)
The Foxes (originally Die Füchse) is Franz Marc’s most expensive painting. This work for auctioned for $56.5 million dollars at Christie’s London Auction.
We see a clear inspiration from cubism with a subtle hint of Marc’s distinctive style. Even though cubism is a very symmetrical art style Franz takes artistic liberty to express himself more freely.
The painting looks like a shattered window pane, with a splash of red in the middle. On closer inspection, we see a fox’s face and its majestic body in the center. However, as you continue to look, you would discover another fox hidden in the contours.
Marc associated different feelings with different colors. Since red is the most dominant color in this painting it is important to understand what he was trying to convey:
“Red is matter, brutal, heavy, and always the color that the other two, must oppose and overcome!”Franz Marc
Here “other two” is a reference for blue and yellow which he defined as masculine and feminine colors respectively. Thus, the red is violent and negative that ought to be balanced out by natural masculine and feminine instincts represented by the blues, yellows, and greens surrounding the fox.
The Yellow Cow (1911)
In this 1911 painting, we see a yellow cow jumping across the frame surrounded by a calm landscape. The way the background wraps around the cow provides the painting with a surreal tone.
The two most dominant colors are yellow and red. Marc described the color yellow as following:
“Yellow is the female principle, gentle, gay, and sensuous”Franz Marc
We clearly see these gentle, gay, and feminine features of yellow in the facial expression and bodily posture of the animal. Surrounded by the brutal and heavy tones of red, the yellow metaphorically overcomes its negativity with its calmness and feminity.
Through Marc’s 1913 painting titled “Stables”, contemporary art took a leap into futurism. This painting is built around Marc’s obsession with horses and his interest in cubism.
“Stables” may be understood as a gestalt of his spiritual visual field. He has carefully arranged a group of five red, blue, and white horses which are nearly indistinguishable from one another.
Marc viewed animals to be forms of unadulterated spiritual energy, innocent and pure. Animals represented a form of purity and godliness that humans have long lost.
Dreaming Horse (1911)
“Dreaming Horse” by Franz Marc is currently at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. This work is a represetation of Marc’s inner turmoil on canvas.
The background consists of chaotic blue-black shapes that reflect the turbulent beginning of World War I. In direct contrast to the backdrop, we see a blue horse calmly sleeping in the foreground. Another horse softly lays his head on the dreaming horse. The blue horse represents masculinity, spirituality, and strength.
The juxtaposition of calmness in the middle of chaos reflects a search for tranquility in destruction. The artist tries to portray how art gives him a few tranquil moments in tumultuous times.
Blue Horse 1 (1911)
Franz Marc’s “Blue Horse I” was the first painting of a blue horse in a series of blue horses that were to follow. The most important concept in this work is the symbolic meaning of the color blue.
“Blue is the masculine principle, astringent and spiritual”Franz Marc
The subject has features of early cubism combined with a certain grace of the curved contours in the background. The horse represents strength, spirituality, and youthful energy. This masculinity mixes with the yellow femininity in the background giving rise to a bright green.
Behind the horse, we see the primary colors representing different elements of emotional energy. The reds in the background seem to fade or rather be “overcome” by the masculine and feminine.
Through his work, Franz Marc shows us that art is the only way to achive spiritual maturity. When society struggles with poverty and destruction, only nature can heal humankind. For Marc, man’s consciousness was maligned by ill will, however, the awareness of life is raw and unadulterated. He depicts the purity of nature and harmony through simple colors, symbols, and metaphors.
Franz helped define modernism in the 20th century. It would be an understatement to say that later expressionists owe their careers to Marc’s progressive art style.
Frequently Asked Questions
What was Franz Marc known for?
Franz Marc was the pioneer of the German expressionist movement. He was the founder of an eminent group of artists called the Der Blaue Reiter. The most important art styles he explored during his career are expressionism, cubism, and futurism.
How many paintings did Franz Marc paint?
A lot of Marc’s paintings were destroyed during the war, hence it is difficult to ascertain how many paintings he actually left behind. About 120 of his paintings are exhibited in different museums throughout the world.
Where can I see Franz Marc’s paintings?
Franz Marc’s Paintings may be viewed at Musée Franz Marc, National Gallery of Art, The Museum of Fine Arts, Lenbachhaus, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Why does Franz Marc paint animals?
Marc viewed animals to be the pure and innocent embodiment of nature and energy. He believed that humans could be healed only by connecting with nature, and hence animals have been heavily represented in his paintings.