For Armistice Day: Franz Marc RIP

It is of course one hundred years exactly since the end of World War I – the “War To End All Wars”, which turned out to be false advertising.

A while back I posted on the death of George Butterworth, an English composer who died during the war. To mark the anniversary of the Armistice, I thought of remembering another artistic figure robbed from humanity on “the other side”; one of my favourite artists, Franz Marc.

Best known for his animal paintings, Marc always struck me as the least martial of men, prone to melancholy and rather at odds in many ways with the ostensible spirit of the times:

Following the lead of his family, Marc studied theology intensely. The family contemplated both the spiritual essence of Christianity and its cultural responsibilities. Marc was sufficiently moved by the background and his confirmation in 1894 that, for the next five years, his goal was to become a priest. But he mingled with his theological studies the Romantic literature of both England and Germany. Finally, near the end of 1898, Marc gave up his goal of becoming a priest to study philosophy at University of Munich. But suddenly, in 1900, the ethical, high-minded youth turned to art. He studied drawing first with Gabriel Hackl and then painting with Wilhelm von Diez, both at the Munich Academy.

Marc’s stiff studio style begins to undergo a transition in subsequent years due to a variety of French influences. A trip to Paris in 1903 initiated an interest in Impressionism. Unfortunately, Marc’s artistic development was accompanied by melancholy and upheavals in his emotional life. His religious outlook was at odds with the Munich youth movement and the city’s burgeoning bohemian atmosphere. He spent summers in the mountains in 1905 and 1906 as well as traveling to Greece in 1906, attempting to recuperate from unhappy love affairs. This period of anxiety came to a tumultuous end when, on his wedding night, following marriage to the painter Marie Schnur, he left for Paris. That summer, in 1907, his marriage was dissolved.

An artist’s work speaks louder than a biography and I recommend clicking on this link  to explore Marc’s paintings yourself. Here are some highlights (have taken images from Wikimedia):

Red Deer, a characteristic animal painting of his maturity:



Tower of Blue Horses (missing since World War II):


The joyous Yellow Cow


The apocalyptic Fate of the Animals, from 1915:

010-franz-marc-theredlistThe enigmatic and pretty much entirely abstract Fighting Forms. On the obverse of a postcard reproduction Marc wrote “… and all being is flaming suffering.”


Rest in Peace Franz Marc, and Rest in Peace all the other victims of the First World War, on all sides.

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