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Franz Marc

Franz Marc

Franz Marc

Franz Marc was a leading figure of German Expressionism, and one of the key members of the influential art group, The Blue Rider. Initially, Marc wanted to become a high school teacher and enrolled at the University of Munich to study philosophy and theology. However, a year later, in 1900, he decided to pursue painting and entered the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, where he studied under the painters Gabriel von Hackl and Wilhelm von Diez.

Marc remained in the Academy for two years before taking an extended trip to Paris. There, he saw the works of Impressionists and Japanese woodcuts, which led him to adopt a more modern approach in terms of color and simplified lines. During his second trip to Paris in 1907, Marc discovered the works of Cubists (Pablo Picasso) and Post-Impressionists (Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh). The combination of these influences was evident in Marc’s early paintings such as Woman in the Wind by the Sea (1907) and Jumping Dog Schlick (1908). His early style was naturalistic, and the artist gravitated toward the natural world, especially animals. The artist had a deep affection for animals and spent many hours studying their movement and behavior. For Marc, animals had spirituality and innocence that man long lost. In paintings like Horse in a landscape (1910), he even tried to emulate the animal’s point of view and experience of the world.

The year 1910 was significant for Marc: he had his first solo exhibition in Munich and met the Expressionist painter August Macke. The following year, he joined Munich New Artist’s Association and befriended one of the founders, the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky. After an internal split, Marc and Kandinsky left the group and formed the rival art group, The Blue Rider. The group had their first exhibition in Munich in December 1911, and their second exhibition two months later with members from another Expressionist group, The Bridge. Additionally, in 1912, Marc and Kandinsky edited The Blue Rider Almanac featuring several articles by Marc.

Marc’s relationships with Macke and Kandinsky were an essential factor in his creative development. The artists shared the goal of creating art that expressed the spiritual nature of things, going beyond a representation of the objective world. Through discussions with Kandinsky and Macke, Marc developed his ideas on color theory, symbolism, and abstraction. In 1914, shortly before the war, Marc began his transition to an abstract style in paintings like Fighting Forms (1914). After the eruption of World War I, Marc volunteered to serve in the German Army. He died in 1916 in battle near Verdun. Marc’s legacy was deeply affected by the subsequent developments in Germany and the rise of the Nazi Party to power. In 1937, the Nazis began their campaign against modern art, which they considered to be ‘degenerate art’. Because most of Marc’s paintings were labeled ‘degenerate’, they were confiscated, and some were destroyed or lost during World War II.

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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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