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 I. 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.
Early life 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 1907 Franz Marc took a trip to Paris, where he first encountered the work of Vincent van Gogh. Marc was inspired and influenced by the emotional and vigorous brushwork of this Post-Impressionist painter and from this point on his work took a distinctly different turn, which can perhaps be seen in the painting Cats on Red Cloth, which was created from 1909 to 1910.
During his time in Paris, Franz Marc spent a lot of time visiting Parisian museums and art galleries as well as meeting local artists. He largely developed his own style by copying the styles of the artists who inspired him and adding his own unique flourishes. The work of Franz Marc from this period can be seen to be mainly the classic Parisian style of the era, while many of his works of art were also inspired by his surroundings.
Der Blaue Reiter
In 1911 both Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky left the Neue Künstlervereinigung in order to establish their own rival group of artists that they named Der Blaue Reiter. At around the same time the pair also established and began editing an art journey of the same name. Der Blaue Reiter was dedicated to depicting the works of new artists as well as new art styles that were slowly starting to become more prominent and accepted in Germany as well as other parts of the world.
By working closely together on various art projects, Kandinsky and Marc gradually began to develop the concept that mystical energy can be revealed to full effect through the technique of abstraction. Franz Marc mainly chose animals as his subject as he thought that this would be a much purer means to get his message across. He also occasionally adopted the mentally ill and children as his subjects.
The painting titled the Large Blue Horses was created by Franz Marc in 1911 and is perhaps one of the clearest examples of his artistic philosophy. This work features the powerful and simply lines combined with the rounded outlines that form the horses that Marc is now famous for. He chose these simple lines and forms to echo the rhythms of the landscape in the background that he used to unite the animals and their setting. Despite the fact that the painting looks rather simple at first glance, it is actually packed with symbolism and uses bold blue, red and yellow colours to represent specific emotional states.
As Marc revealed in his articles that were published in Der Blaue Reiter, the horses represent breakthrough and blue has been chosen to represent spirituality in relation to materialism. The horses are shown without riders to show their supremacy over humans and it is believed that three horses have been chosen rather than four that were often seen in Marc’s earlier works to represent the apocalypse.