Franz Moritz Wilhelm Marc (* 8 February 1880 in Munich; † 4 March 1916 near Verdun, France) was a German painter, draughtsman and graphic artist whose work is considered one of the most important of German Expressionism. Alongside Wassily Kandinsky, he was a co-founder of the editorial group “Der Blaue Reiter”.
Franz Marc’s early work
Franz Marc was born in Munich on 8 February 1880. His father Wilhelm Marc is a landscape and genre painter and a member of the Munich Artists’ Cooperative. In 1899 Franz Marc decides to study philology. However, he changes his mind and enrols at the Munich Art Academy one year later. There he studied under Gabriel Hackl and Wilhelm von Dietz.
First trips to France and friendship between August Macke and Franz Marc
In 1903 the young artist travelled through France and came into contact with Impressionism. He was so fascinated by the art metropolis of Paris that he spent several months there. On his return to Germany, Marc took his easel outdoors for the first time and brightened up his colour palette. His acquaintance with Jean Bloé Niestlé in 1905 inspired the artist to create animal depictions.
He was particularly fascinated by the horse. What counts for him is the symbolic power of colour, which increasingly stylises his depictions. The landscape motif remains in his art but is degraded to the habitat of the animals depicted. An affair with the painter Marie Schnür led to their marriage in 1907, but they divorced after a year. In the same year, the artist travelled to France again and was deeply impressed by the works of Vincent van Gogh. He writes reports of this trip to his friend Maria Franck. In 1909 Franz Marc becomes a member of the Neue Künstlervereinigung München. The following year, the artist moves to Sindelsdorf in Upper Bavaria. His first exhibition is held at the Brakl Gallery in Munich. As a result, August Macke visits him with the art collector Bernhard Koehler. Koehler concludes a pre-purchase agreement with Marc for his works, which provides the artist with financial security. Macke and Marc will have a long and intense friendship.
Franz Marc and “The Blue Rider” (Der Blaue Reiter=
In 1911 the artist marries his long-time girlfriend Maria Franck. He joins the “Neue Künstlervereinigung München”, but resigns the same year because of tensions within the group. The founding of the editorial group “Der Blaue Reiter” with Wassily Kandinsky follows. The two exhibitions of “Der Blaue Reiter” take place in 1911 and 1912. In 1912 Kandinsky and Marc publish the almanac “Der Blaue Reiter”, which is described as the programme of Munich Expressionism.
In 1912 August Macke and Franz Marc travel to Paris, where they visit Robert Delaunay. Back in Germany, the artist becomes acquainted with Futurist painting in Berlin on the occasion of an exhibition at the “Sturm” gallery. Now, Marc overcomes the monochrome colour surfaces in his painting. In his further works, a dynamic, polyfocal surface construction comes to the fore, whereby the motif is prismatically dissected. The colour subordinates itself to this geometric structure.
Together with Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Alfred Kubin and Oskar Kokoschka, Marc made plans to produce a Bible illustration. He then chooses the first book of Moses and begins a series of woodcuts. In the same year, the artist is involved in organising the “First German Autumn Salon” in Berlin.
After the outbreak of the First World War, Franz Marc was still called up for military service in 1914. On 4 March 1916, Franz Marc was fatally shot by a shell. He was killed shortly before Verdun. His sketchbook “aus dem Felde” (from the field), which also contains further ideas for Bible illustration, is found in his belongings.
1899 – Enrolment as philology student. Makes Decision to become a painter.
1900 – Studied at the Munich Academy with Gabriel Hackl and Wilhelm von Dietz.
1901 – Trip to Italy with the elder brother Paul.
1903 – Longer stay in Paris and Brittany. Contact with Impressionist painting, without immediate artistic result.
1904 – First of the 32 sketchbooks. Meeting with Annette von Eckhardt.
1905 – Acquaintance with Jean Bloé Niestlé, who inspires him to depict animals.
1906 – Journey with his brother Paul to Greece and Mount Athos. Separation from Annette von Eckhardt.
1907 – Beginning of friendship with Maria Franck. Second trip to Paris and contact with the painting of Vincent van Gogh.
1908 – Drawing of a deer frieze as the first larger animal composition. Lithographs and animal sculptures are created.
1910 – Moves to Sindelsdorf. Friendship with Bernhard Koehler, who supports him financially, as well as August Macke and Wassily Kandinsky, whose work becomes highly significant for his painterly development. First exhibition at the Brakl Gallery in Munich. Influenced by the paintings of Gaugain, Cézanne, and van Gogh.
1911 – Marries Maria Franck. Member of the “Neue Künstlervereinigung München”. Marc later leaves the association with Kandinsky and others. Exhibition at Thannhauser. Founds the editorial office of “Der Blaue Reiter”. First exhibition of “Der Blaue Reiter” in December.
1912 – Travels to Paris with August Macke and visits Robert Delaunay. Acquaintance with Futurist painting in Berlin on the occasion of the exhibition in the “Sturm”. Publication of the almanac “Der Blaue Reiter”. Second exhibition of “Der Blaue Reiter”. First woodcuts are produced.
1913 – Together with Kandinsky, Klee, Kubin and Kokoschka, plans a bible illustration. Marc chooses the first book of Moses and begins a series of woodcuts. Co-organises the “First German Autumn Salon” in Berlin with Robert Delaunay, Herwarth Walden, August Macke, and others.
1914 – Move to Ried. Approaches non-representational painting. In August, called up for military service.
1915 – Work on the last sketchbook “from the field”, which also contains further suggestions for bible illustration.