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Artists Franz Marc

Franz Marc

German painter and printmaker

Movements: Expressionism, Der Blaue Reiter

Born: February 8, 1880 - Munich, Germany

Died: March 4, 1916 - Braquis, France

Quotes

"The wasteland of nineteenth century art was our nursery."
Franz Marc
"Very early in life I found man ugly; the animal seemed to me more beautiful and cleaner, but even in it I discovered so much that was repelling and ugly that my instinctively and by inner force became more schematic and abstract."
Franz Marc
"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."
Franz Marc
"The Blue Rider projects himself into the mysterious realms of nature and, without brutality or strident effect, loses himself in the wonder of a child, the confusion of an unbalanced person, the naivete of a peasant, the terrors and joys of animals."
Franz Marc
"Is there any more mysterious idea for the artist than the conception of how nature may be mirrored in the eye of the animal? How does a horse see the world, or an eagle, a deer, or a dog? How poor and how soulless is our convention of placing animals in a landscape which belongs to our eyes, instead of penetrating into the soul of the animal in order to imagine his perception?"
Franz Marc
"One is no longer concerned with the reproduction of nature, but destroys it in order to show the mighty laws that surge from behind the beautiful appearance of things."
Franz Marc
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"I try to intensify my sensitivity for the organic rhythm of all things; I seek pantheist empathy with the vibration and flow of the blood of nature-in the trees, in the animals, in the air . . . I see no happier medium for the 'Animalization' of art, as I would like to call it, than the animal picture."

Synopsis

Although his career was cut short by his early death, Franz Marc had a tremendous impact on the various Expressionist movements that would evolve after World War II. After early experiments with naturalism and realism, Marc later eschewed those styles in favor of the greater symbolic potential of abstraction. He is most famous for his images of brightly colored animals, especially horses, which he used to convey profound messages about humanity, the natural world, and the fate of mankind. In association with Russian painter and theorist Wassily Kandinsky, Marc founded the group Der Blaue Reiter, which emphasized the use of abstracted forms and bold colors. Their goal was to use form and symbolism as tools to overcome what they saw as the toxic state of the modern world. As World War I approached, the tension of Marc's paintings came into especially sharp focus, as if he anticipated both his own fate and that of Europe as a whole.

Key Ideas

Marc looked to the natural world as an antidote to modern life, from which he felt increasingly alienated. Nature and animals were more than just pleasing to him; they were spiritual and a means of relocating what had been lost in the modern era. Thus, his paintings of animals are suffused with an almost meditative reverence.
Color was extremely important for Marc. Not only did he understand the potential for color to affect mood, he developed a specific theory of color symbolism. His analysis of color associated blue with the masculine, yellow with the feminine, and red with the physical - often violent - world.
Marc's work embodies the heightened anxieties of early twentieth century Europe, as people struggled with a rapidly changing, urban world on the precipice of war.

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Most Important Art

The Yellow Cow (1911)
After marrying Maria Franck in 1911, Marc painted The Yellow Cow as an homage to their union. The cow represents the safety and security Marc felt in this, his second, marriage. This composition is an early example of his use of color symbolism, a technique that had been pioneered by van Gogh, and by his friend August Macke. Van Gogh used color to represent emotion, but in his paintings identifiable features of the natural world remained. Marc built upon van Gogh's emotional use of color, by using colors to humanize natural forms in the landscape, emphasizing his own interest in pantheism. The large yellow cow represents the feminine, since Marc saw the color yellow as evoking feminine emotions. The blue spots on its hide represent the masculine, since he viewed blue as evoking masculine emotions. The combination of the two colors, then, indicates a merging of masculine and feminine, in a reference to his marriage to Franck. His repetition of color connects the animals with their background. This is most evident in the small herd of red cows grouped together at the left of the composition; they are camouflaged, blending into the rocky, red landscape around them. Marc also uses color and line repetition with the large yellow cow. The cow dominates the foreground of the dreamlike composition, exuding a mood of blissful serenity as it leaps over the rocky landscape in the foreground. The blue hills in the background echo the shape of the cow's haunches. The repetition of color and line throughout reverberate with a sense of energy as well as safety and happiness.
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Biography

Childhood and Education

Franz Marc was born in Munich, Germany on February 8, 1880. His father, Wilhelm Marc, was an amateur landscape painter. Under the influence of his artistic father, Marc's artistic talent was evident from a young age, but he did not decide to pursue a career in painting until after completing his military service.

In 1900, Marc enrolled in the Munich Academy of Art, but the curriculum's focus on natural realism left him dissatisfied. While enrolled at the academy, he became acquainted with the Jugendstil art movement, whose popular decorative motifs emphasized the use of expressive line to depict natural forms and structures. The Jugendstil artists inspired Marc to break free of the strict confines of naturalism taught in the academy. Marc's earliest paintings from this period (dating to around 1902) suggest a young artist experimenting with new styles that were at odds with the styles espoused by the academy. The most notable feature of these early paintings is their bold, expressive color. They also feature flat, two dimensional backgrounds, which echo the style of the Jugendstil artists.

Early Period

Franz Marc Biography

In 1903, Marc spent six months in Paris studying modern and Impressionist paintings. At that time he met the French artist, Jean Niestle, who was famous for painting animals. Niestle's animals were depicted with the same soft, expressive lines found in Japanese woodblock prints. Perhaps due to Niestle's influence, Marc started to depict animals in his own paintings as early as 1905. He returned to Paris in 1907, on the eve of his ill-fated first marriage, "to calm his anguished and vacillating soul in van Gogh's wonderful pictures." In the years that followed he experimented with Impressionism and Pointillism, but found them unsatisfactory for his own work. This was partially based on his interest in color; he desired a palette that would echo the rhythm of his expressive linear forms. Ultimately, Marc turned to the Fauves, who appealed to him for a number of reasons. Not only did they use vibrant and distorted colors, but they also sought to record primitive life and to depict the relationship between man and nature, a goal that would become ever more important to Marc as well.

However, Marc's paintings still retained the moody, representational forms that were favored in academic naturalism. Upon his return to Munich, he threw himself into the study of the anatomy of animals. Later, when living in Berlin, he spent countless hours at the Berlin Zoo studying and sketching the forms of animals from every conceivable angle. Through rigorous and disciplined study, he created a general concept of animal and human forms. The image of the animal continued to become ever more prominent in his art, almost replacing the human form entirely. For Marc, animals were the ideal subject matter for depicting truth, purity, and beauty. He said, "on the whole, instinct has never failed to guide me . . . especially the instinct which led me away from man's awareness of life and towards that of a 'pure' animal. . . . an animal's unadulterated awareness of life made me respond with everything that was good." Marc's animals served as reflections of nature, imitating the regularity with which certain forms occur in nature.

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Franz Marc Biography Continues

Mature Period

Franz Marc Photo

During the years 1908 and 1909, Marc began to combine his newfound interest in anatomy with the intense, symbolic color palette of the Fauves. Like them, Marc felt that the dream was the truest expression of reality. He believed that every fantasy was based in fact. The biggest turning point in his career and personal life came in 1910, when Marc became friends with the artist August Macke. The two men developed a friendship that involved travel and study - a true friendship of equals. Around this time, Marc found himself keeping company with other like-minded, painters, including Wassily Kandinsky.

Kandinsky, was a founding member of the Munich Neue Kunstler Vereinigung (NKVM), (Munich New Artists Federation) - a group that believed in an analytical spiritual mysticism. His paintings sought to elicit a similar emotional effect as listening to music. He even went as far as to refer to his paintings as "compositions." Macke, though younger than Marc, had already achieved some success in employing color in his paintings to express conflict and harmony. Under the influence of Macke, Marc began to experiment with a color theory of his own, one that would best depict the emotional intensity of his subject matter. By late 1910, he had developed his color theory in which: "Blue is the male principle, astringent and spiritual. Yellow is the female principle, gentle, happy and sensual. Red is matter, brutal and heavy and always the color to be opposed and overcome by the other two."

The NKVM disbanded in 1910 due to mounting artistic tensions. As if to fill the void left by NKVM, Marc and Kandinsky co-founded Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) in 1911. Der Blaue Reiter and Die Brücke (The Bridge) were the two main branches of German Expressionism. The members of Die Brucke were united by a common artistic style, particularly a preference for bold colors and simplified, flattened forms. The Blue Rider artists, however, were instead unified by a common ideology, of creative freedom for artists to express their personal vision in whatever manner they deemed appropriate. Both groups were interested in depicting nature and the universe as a means of self-expression, not unlike the Romantic artists of the previous century. The symbolic and psychological function of color was an integral part of Der Blaue Reiter's program. Marc's own belief system revolved around pantheism, and his work repeatedly depicts nature as if seen through the eyes of an animal or other "primal" figure.

In 1912, he met the French artist Robert Delaunay, whose dynamic Cubist style was already well known among the Der Blaue Reiter artists. Marc's artworks, which up to this point were still very representational in form, started to become noticeably more Cubist. Under Delaunay's influence he began to experiment with simultaneous color contrast, which created an effect that resembled the early works of Picasso and Braque. His painting Tiger (1912) showcases this well.

Late Period

Franz Marc Portrait

By 1913, Marc's work, like that of his contemporaries, became increasingly apocalyptic. Along with this this shift came a change in how Marc viewed animals. In fact, he began to see animals as almost as impure as human beings. He wrote, "from one year to the next, trees, flowers, the earth, everything showed me more and more ugly and repulsive sides, and it was not until now that I became aware of the hideousness of nature and its impurity." His tense and conflicted feelings are evident in his paintings from that year, including Fate of the Animals, Tyrol, and The Tower of Blue Horses. In spite of the tension in these paintings, Marc believed that the war would be a purifying force that would rid the world of all that was evil and putrid. Through the ritualistic cleansing of war, he believed the world, especially the natural world, would regenerate.

By the following year, 1914, World War I had broken out, and Marc's work moved towards complete abstraction. That year, he worked on a series of four abstract paintings, Cheerful Forms, Playing Forms, Forms in Combat, and Broken Forms, that showcased his final move away from representational painting toward works that were completely dedicated to form. Later that year, Marc enthusiastically enlisted in the German Army as a cavalryman. Writing to Kandinsky, he said of the war, "this is the only way of cleaning out the Augean stable of Europe." Indeed, Marc was so enthusiastic that he asked, "Is there a single person who does not wish this war might happen?" His good friend Macke also enlisted in 1914, and died in combat later that year, devastating Marc. Marc himself was killed in action at the Battle of Verdun on March 4, 1916.


Legacy

As a leading figure in the German Expressionist movement, Marc helped redefine the nature of art. The Expressionist movement was known for of its interest in spirituality and primitivism, and its use of abstraction. Marc incorporated his love of theology and animals into his work to create an alternate, more spiritual, vision of the world. He depicted the world as seen through the eyes of animals, who he used to highlight those aspects of modernity that he viewed unfavorably. But his later work also moved beyond representational forms into pure abstraction, leading the way for the next generation of painters.

Though his career was brief, his expressive linear forms and symbolic use of color had a lasting impact on the worlds of abstraction and expressionism. Indeed, artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning can be called Marc's descendants. These artists were inspired by Marc's ability to generate a sense of emotion with his interest in the spiritual and the primitive, as well as his use of bright colors. The Abstract Expressionists built upon Marc's contributions by creating paintings that emphasized more minimal, generalized forms that focused primarily on linear expression and color. These new approaches to Expressionism sought to highlight the artists' personal struggles with the changes that came after the end of World War II. Later generations of expressionists, such as Color Field artists who took expressionism to its most minimalist, simplified state, can be viewed as descendants of Marc and his contemporaries. Indeed, Franz Marc, as a founding member of German Expressionism, was instrumental in helping to define modernism in the twentieth century and beyond.

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Influences and Connections

Influences on artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

Influenced by artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

Franz Marc
Interactive chart with Franz Marc's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
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View Influences Chart

Artists

Paul Gauguin
Paul Cézanne
Vincent van Gogh
Henri Matisse

Friends

Wassily Kandinsky
Robert Delaunay

Movements

Fauvism
Cubism
Futurism
Franz Marc
Franz Marc
Years Worked: 1902 - 1916

Artists

Paul Klee
Jackson Pollock
Willem de Kooning
Mark Rothko

Friends

Albert Bloch
August Macke

Movements

Abstract Expressionism
Color Field Painting
Neo-Expressionism



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Useful Resources on Franz Marc

Videos
Books
Websites
Articles
The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.
Franz Marc (Mega Square)

By Victoria Charles

The Essential Encyclopedic Guide to Modern Art: Styles, Schools and Movements

By Amy Dempsey

The Apocalyptic Vision: The Art of Franz Marc as German Expressionism

By Frederick Levine

The German Expressionists: A Generation in Revolt

By Bernard S. Myers

More Interesting Books about Franz Marc
All the Pretty Horses: Franz Marc

By Annalise Nelson
Harvard Crimson
November 3, 2000

The Dream (Franz Marc to Wassily Kandinsky)

Museo Thyssen
Retrieved February 23, 2016

Weidende Pferde III - Marc sets Record Price at Sotheby's

Art Daily
February 6, 2008

Marc's Utopian Hopes for Art and the Great War

By Mark Dober
April 23, 2013

More Interesting Articles about Franz Marc
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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors

Edited and revised by Ellen Hurst

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors
Edited and revised by Ellen Hurst
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Expressionism
Expressionism
Expressionism
Expressionism is a broad term for a host of movements in early twentieth-century Germany and beyond, from Die Brücke (1905) and Der Blaue Reiter (1911) to the early Neue Sachlichkeit painters in the 1920s and '30s. Many Expressionists used vivid colors and abstracted forms to create spiritually or psychologically intense works, while others focused on depictions of war, alienation, and the modern city.
TheArtStory: Expressionism
Wassily Kandinsky
Wassily Kandinsky
Wassily Kandinsky
A member of the German Expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter, and later a teacher at the Bauhaus, Kandinsky is best known for his pioneering breakthrough into expressive abstraction in 1913. His work prefigures that of the American Abstract Expressionists.
TheArtStory: Wassily Kandinsky
Der Blaue Reiter
Der Blaue Reiter
Der Blaue Reiter
Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) was a group of Expressionist painters in Munich, Germany consisting principally of Wassily Kandinsky, Alexej von Jawlensky,Germans Auguste Macke, and Franz Marc. Key interests among them were the aesthetics of primitivism and spiritualism, as well as growing trends in Fauvism and Cubism, which led Kandinsky, chief among the Expressionist artists, to experiment more with abstract art.
TheArtStory: Der Blaue Reiter
Art Nouveau
Art Nouveau
Art Nouveau
Art Nouveau was a movement that swept through the decorative arts and architecture in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Generating enthusiasts throughout Europe, it was aimed at modernizing design and escaping the eclectic historical styles that had previously been popular. It drew inspiration from both organic and geometric forms, evolving elegant designs that united flowing, natural forms with more angular contours.
TheArtStory: Art Nouveau
Impressionism
Impressionism
Impressionism
A movement in painting that first surfaced in France in the 1860s, it sought new ways to describe effects of light and movement, often using rich colors. The Impressionists were drawn to modern life and often painted the city, but they also captured landscapes and scenes of middle-class leisure-taking in the suburbs.
TheArtStory: Impressionism
Pointillism
Pointillism
Pointillism
Pointillism is a mode of art-making, first developed in 1880s France, in which all of the paint is applied to the surface as tiny points or daubs of color. Based on the laws of color theory, pointillism relies on the viewer's eye to mix the disparate dots into the lines, shapes, shadings, and color ranges of the full scene.
Pointillism
Fauvism
Fauvism
Fauvism
Fauvism was an early twentieth-century art movement founded by Henri Matisse and André Derain. Labeled as "wild beasts", Fauve artists favored vibrant colors and winding gestural strokes across the canvas.
TheArtStory: Fauvism
August Macke
August Macke
August Macke
August Macke was a German painter and a leader in the Expressionist group The Blue Rider. A close friend of Franz Marc, Paul Klee and Robert Delaunay, Macke's paintings were more Post-Impressionist and Fauvist in style, but were very expressive in terms of color and mood. Macke was killed on the front lines during World War I, at the age of 27.
August Macke
Die Brücke
Die Brücke
Die Brücke
Die Brücke (The Bridge) was a group of German Expressionist artists that banded together in Dresden in 1905. The group, which includes artists such as Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Emil Nolde, had a major impact on the evolution of modern art in the twentieth century and the creation of Expressionism. Die Bruke artists' used bold colors to depicts gritty scene of city life.
TheArtStory: Die Brücke
Romanticism
Romanticism
Romanticism
Romanticism was a nineteenth-century movement that celebrated the powers of emotion and intuition over rational analysis or classical ideals. Romantic artists emphasized awe, beauty, and the sublime in their works, which frequently charted the darker or chaotic sides of human life.
Romanticism
Robert Delaunay
Robert Delaunay
Robert Delaunay
Robert Delaunay was a French avant-garde painter. Early in his career he was associated with the Expressionist group The Blue Rider along with Kandinsky and Klee. Delaunay's singular style is referred to as Orphism; an approach that combines visual elements of Cubism, Expressionism and figurative abstraction.
TheArtStory: Robert Delaunay
Cubism
Cubism
Cubism
Cubism was developed by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque between 1907-1911, and it continued to be highly influential long after its decline. This classic phase has two stages: 'Analytic', in which forms seem to be 'analyzed' and fragmented; and 'Synthetic', in which pre-existing materials such as newspaper and wood veneer are collaged to the surface of the canvas.
TheArtStory: Cubism
Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock was the most well-known Abstract Expressionist and the key example of Action Painting. His work ranges from Jungian scenes of primitive rites to the purely abstract "drip paintings" of his later career.
TheArtStory: Jackson Pollock
Willem de Kooning
Willem de Kooning
Willem de Kooning
Willem de Kooning, a Dutch immigrant to New York, was one of the foremost Abstract Expressionist painters. His abstract compositions drew on Surrealist and figurative traditions, and typified the expressionistic 'gestural' style of the New York School.
TheArtStory: Willem de Kooning
Abstract Expressionism
Abstract Expressionism
Abstract Expressionism
A tendency among New York painters of the late 1940s and '50s, all of whom were committed to an expressive art of profound emotion and universal themes. The movement embraced the gestural abstraction of Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, and the color field painting of Mark Rothko and others. It blended elements of Surrealism and abstract art in an effort to create a new style fitted to the postwar mood of anxiety and trauma.
TheArtStory: Abstract Expressionism
Color Field Painting
Color Field Painting
Color Field Painting
A tendency within Abstract Expressionism, distinct from gestural abstraction, Color Field painting was developed by Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still in the late 1940s, and developed further by Helen Frankenthaler and others. It is characterized by large fields of color and an absence of any figurative motifs, and often expresses a yearning for transcendence and the infinite.
TheArtStory: Color Field Painting
Paul Gauguin
Paul Gauguin
Paul Gauguin
Paul Gauguin was a French Post-Impressionist artist who employed color fields and painterly strokes in his work. He is best known for his primitivist depictions of native life in Tahiti and Polynesia.
TheArtStory: Paul Gauguin
Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne was an influential French Post-Impressionist painter whose depictions of the natural world, based on internal geometric planes, paved the way for Cubism and later modern art movements.
TheArtStory: Paul Cézanne
Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch painter, commonly associated with the Post-Impressionist period. As one of the most prolific and experimental artists of his time, van Gogh was a spontaneous painter and a master of color and perspective. Troubled by personal demons all his life, many historians speculate that van Gogh suffered from a Bipolar disorder.
TheArtStory: Vincent van Gogh
Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse was a French painter and sculptor who helped forge modern art. From his early Fauvist works to his late cutouts, he emphasized expansive fields of color, the expressive potential of gesture, and the sensuality inherent in art-making.
TheArtStory: Henri Matisse
Futurism
Futurism
Futurism
Futurism was the most influential Italian avant-garde movement of the twentieth century. Dedicated to the modern age, it celebrated speed, movement, machinery and violence. At first influenced by Neo-Impressionism, and later by Cubism, some of its members were also drawn to mass culture and nontraditional forms of art.
TheArtStory: Futurism
Paul Klee
Paul Klee
Paul Klee
The Swiss-born painter Paul Klee worked in a variety of styles, including Expressionism, geometric abstraction, and collage. His most famous works have a mystical quality and make use of linear and pictorial symbols.
TheArtStory: Paul Klee
Mark Rothko
Mark Rothko
Mark Rothko
Mark Rothko was an Abstract Expressionist painter whose early interest in mythic landscapes gave way to mature works featuring large, hovering blocks of color on colored grounds.
TheArtStory: Mark Rothko
Albert Bloch
Albert Bloch
Albert Bloch
Albert Bloch was an American Modernist artist known for his abstracted, yet still representational, paintings. Bloch worked mainly in Germany and was associated with Der Blaue Reiter, the only American painter affiliated with the group. He was personally invited to participate in the group's first exhibition by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc. His paintings explored the poetry of mood while dismissing materiality.
Albert Bloch
Neo-Expressionism
Neo-Expressionism
Neo-Expressionism
Neo-Expressionism began as a movement in German art in the early 1960s with the emergence of Georg Baselitz. It gained momentum, and drew in painters from Germany and the United States - often bringing artists back to painting as a serious and contemporary medium for artistic exploration.
TheArtStory: Neo-Expressionism
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