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Franz Marc

Franz Marc

Franz Marc

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Franz Marc (8 February, 1880 – 4 March, 1916) was a German painter and printmaker, one of the key figures of the German Expressionist movement. He was a founding member of Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), a journal whose name later became synonymous with the circle of artists collaborating in it.

Franz Marc was born in 1880 in Munich, then the capital of the Kingdom of Bavaria. His father, Wilhelm Marc, was a professional landscape painter; his mother, Sophie, was a homemaker and a devout, socially liberal Calvinist.

In 1900 Marc began to study at the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, where his teachers included Gabriel von Hackl and Wilhelm von Diez. In 1903 and 1907, he spent time in France, particularly in Paris, visiting the museums in the city and copying many paintings, a traditional way for artists to study and develop technique. In Paris, Marc frequented artistic circles, meeting numerous artists and the actress Sarah Bernhardt. He discovered a strong affinity for the work of painter Vincent van Gogh.

In 1906, Marc traveled with his elder brother Paul, a Byzantine expert, to Thessaloniki, Mount Athos, and various other Greek locations. A few years later, in 1910, Marc developed an important friendship with the artist August Macke. In 1910 Marc painted Nude with Cat and Grazing Horses, and showed works in the second exhibition of the Neue Künstlervereinigung (New Artists' Association) at the Thannhauser Galleries in Munich.

In 1911, Marc founded the Der Blaue Reiter journal, which became the center of an artist circle, along with Macke, Wassily Kandinsky, and others who had decided to split off from the Neue Künstlervereinigung movement.

Marc showed several of his works in the first Der Blaue Reiter exhibition at the Thannhauser Galleries in Munich between December 1911 and January 1912. As it was the apex of the German expressionist movement, the exhibit also showed in Berlin, Cologne, Hagen, and Frankfurt. In 1912, Marc met Robert Delaunay, whose use of colour and the futurist method was a major influence on Marc's work; fascinated by futurism and cubism, Marc created art that increasingly was stark and abstract in nature. He painted The Tiger and Red Deer in 1912 and The Tower of Blue Horses, Foxes, and Fate of the Animals in 1913.

With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Marc was drafted into the German Army as a cavalryman. By February 1916, as shown in a letter to his wife, he had gravitated to military camouflage. His technique for hiding artillery from aerial observation was to paint canvas covers in broadly pointillist style. He took pleasure in creating a series of nine such tarpaulin covers in styles varying "from Manet to Kandinsky", suspecting that the latter could be the most effective against aircraft flying at 2000 meters or higher.

After mobilization of the German Army, the government identified notable artists to be withdrawn from combat for their own safety. Marc was on the list but was struck in the head and killed instantly by a shell splinter during the Battle of Verdun in 1916 before orders for reassignment could reach him.

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