Franz Marc: 1880-1916

Yellow Cow-Franz Marc-1911

Born on February 8, 1880 in Munich, Germany, Franz Marc was a principal painter of the German Expressionist movement. The son of a professional landscape painter, Marc chose to become an artist after a year of military service interrupted his plans to study philology. Marc studied at the Kunstakademie in Munich under Gabriel von Hackl and Wilhelm von Diez from 1900-1902. In 1903 and in 1907  he visited Paris where he was introduced to Japanese woodcuts and the work of Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, the Cubists, and the Expressionists. During this period, Marc also made a steady income by giving animal anatomy lessons to art students.

Marc had his first solo show at the Kunsthandlung Brackl, Munich in 1910.  He supported the Neue Künstlervereinigung München (Munich New Artist’s Association), and became a member of the group early in 1911. After the split of the NKVM, Marc formed Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), artist circle with August MackeWassily Kandinsky, and other artists. The group’s first exhibition was held on December 1911 at Heinrich Thannhauser’s Moderne Galerie in Munich.  “Der Blaue Reiter Almanac” was published with lead articles by Marc in May 1912.

Marc’s paintings were concerned with the need for harmony and union with nature. “Believing that animals achieved this harmony more successfully than human beings, he used them for the subject matter of his paintings. Early in his career he painted graceful and lyrical horses, cows, and deer inhabiting beautiful and peaceful landscapes. The scenes were painted with bright pure colors and filled with light.”

In 1912, Marc met Robert Delaunay, whose use of color and futurist method affected his work greatly. He became influenced by Futurism and Cubism, and his art became stark and abstract in nature.

Marc was conscripted during World War I and was sent to the front lines. The great loss of life deeply affected him, including the many animals that were killed in the war.  One of his best known paintings, Tierschicksale (Fate of the Animals), was completed in 1913 when “the tension of impending cataclysm had pervaded society”. On the back of the canvas, Marc wrote, “Und Alles Sein ist flammend Leid” (“And all being is flaming agony”). Marc wrote to his wife of the painting, it “is like a premonition of this war – horrible and shattering. I can hardly conceive that I painted it.”

Franz Marc was killed on March 14, 1916 at the Battle of Verdun.

Sources: Guggenheim, Wikipedia, Albright-Knox Art Gallery,