Franz Marc will for ever be remembered for his paintings of animals in brilliant colors and simplified, nearly cubist forms. Paintings like The Red Horses express a sense of beauty and perfection. The artist died in action in World War I at the age of only 36.
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First Publication: November 2001
Latest Update: June 2013
Franz Marc was born in Munich, Germany on February 8, 1880. His father worked as a professor at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts. The young boy originally wanted to become a priest. Then he decided to study philosophy. But both ideas were abandoned and in 1900 he took painting classes at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts.
Paris was at that time the center of the arts. Impressionism had revolutionized the traditional art world. Traveling to Paris and studying the modern painters like Claude Monet, van Gogh, or Paul Gauguin was a must for a progressive young artist. Marc Franz undertook several travels to Paris - the first in 1903 and again in 1907 and in 1912. He was deeply influenced by the modern French painters.
Together with Wassily Kandinsky, whom he had met at the Academy, Marc Franz founded the art association The Blue Rider. Other members were Gabriele Muenter and Alexeji Jawlensky. Later they were joined by August Macke and Paul Klee.
Wassily Kandinsky later recalled how the name Blue Rider was born:
"Franz Marcand I chose this name as we were having coffee one day on the shady terrace of Sindelsdorf. Both of us liked blue, Marc for horses, I for riders. So the name Blue Rider came by itself."
For Franz Marc the group had become something like a home. He suddenly had companions with whom he could exchange his ideas about art. He developed a close friendship with Kandinsky and with August Macke. The group had a very positive effect on Marc's creativity. His artistic output nearly exploded - both in quality and in quantity.
The Munich Tannhauser gallery was the exhibition platform for the group. In 1911 The Blue Rider had a group exhibition. And in 1913 Tannhauser organized a solo exhibition for the artist.
Nearly all works of art created by Franz Marc show animals. He liked animals and saw in them innocent beings in harmony with nature. He wanted to paint the world out of the perspective of the animal. Marc was a very sensitive and spiritual man. Today, only hundred years later, it is not quite easy to understand the ideas of this artist and others, although they were documented in articles, books and letters.
In one of his last paintings, titled Fighting Forms from 1914, the artist had abandoned figural painting. He certainly created this painting under the influence of Wassily Kandinsky who had arrived at this step four years earlier. Kandinsky then had left figural painting for the first time and in 1912 he had published a book about the theory of abstraction. It is pure speculation how Marc Franz would have developed his style if his life had not been finished so abruptly at the age of 36.
Marc and Macke volunteered for the German military service when World War I broke out. They had the idea that the war would be some kind of a purification of a spoiled and rotten civilization. Macke was killed in action at the very beginning of the war in 1914. And Marc, shell-shocked by what he saw and experienced, soon changed his opinion. In 1915 he wrote:
"War is one of the most evil things to which we sacrificed ourselves."
On March 4, 1916 he was killed in action.
A documentation video in German by Deutsche Welle. Duration: Less than 4 minutes. Thanks to Deutsche Welle. By the way, the images of the landscape and culture of the homeland of the Blue Rider artist movement are not exaggerated. I am personally happy to live in this traditional and beautiful part of Bavaria.
Author: Dieter Wanczura