Who is Franz Marc?

“Curiouser and curiouser!”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Die großen blauen Pferde, The Large Blue Horses by Franz Marc (1911)

Owning an art calendar has the same power over me as Lewis Carroll’s rabbit hole had over Alice.  Today, the vision of Franz Marc’s The Large Blue Horses was all that was needed for to jump head-long into the rabbit hole, taking my tea with me, in case I met up with the Mad Hatter.

Who was Franz Marc?  The painting was riveting with the dramatic shades of blue with orange, yellow and purple in the background.  The bright primary colours invited me to take a closer look.  Curiouser and curiouser…

Research begins with a simply question of “Who” and before long, the rest of the 5 Ws show up: What, When, Where, Why? Art is more than the painting that resides on a wall.  To me, art is the culmination of what a person has loved, has endured, has experienced.

Franz Marc was born in Munich, 1880, the capital of what was then the Kingdom of Bavaria. He lived during the apex of the German expressionist movement.   At twenty, he enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, but before long he would spend time in Paris (1903 and 1907) where he would be surrounded by the glittering Parisian art community. He was excited by the works of Gauguin, Van Gogh, Picasso and Matisse, which inspired him to create his individual style.  Travelling with his brother, Paul, a Byzantine expert, to Thessaloniki and the holy mountain of Mount Athos opened him to the influence of ancient times.  In 1911, he founded the Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) journal, along with his friends Wassily Kandinsky, August Macke and other artists, which became a centre of artistic endeavour.

Franz’s life was to be short; his death at 36, came when he was felled by an artillery shell during the Battle of Verdun.  His unique style, and creative approach, became a benchmark for artists who followed: Marc Chagall, Piet Mondrian, Jackson Pollock.  Perhaps that is the greatest legacy of all – to reside in the hearts and minds of fellow artists.


The Fate of the Animals by Franz March (1913)

“The Fate of the Animals” (Tierschicksale, in German) which Franz completed in 1913, was a portent of WWI and a grim foreshadowing of the destruction and sadness that was to come. This piece was a significant departure from his earlier works, which depicted animals at peace.  Franz had a strong connection to animals which many believe came from his association with his childhood dog.

Happy Birthday, Leonardo da Vinci

Firenze, Italia

Firenze, Italia

April 15th marks the birth of Leonardo da Vinci.  Historians and scholars have given him the title, Renaissance Man, because of his breadth and depth of knowledge from architecture to paleontology, botany to engineering, geology to astronomy, and much more. Many have written about his brilliance, but what I find most remarkable is his humanity.  Leonardo da Vinci, with his insatiable curiosity, pursued knowledge with a zeal that produced enormous outcomes that continue to influence our world.

The Annunciation, which is located in the Uffizi, Florence, is one of my favourites.  The scene is based on Luke 1:26-36 which announces the coming of Jesus.

“The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.”

Luke 1:30


Leonardo da Vinci – Annunciazione – Google Art Project

When you look back over 500 years, there can be a few issues relating to attribution.  It was originally thought to be a work by another artist of that time.  Now, the experts believe that it was a collaboration between Leonardo and his mentor, Andrea di Cione aka Verrocchio.

Here’s where it becomes interesting:

Leonardo received instructions to finish the angel and the background, which he did using paint without lead.  Verrocchio, on the other hand, used lead-based paint.  Leonardo’s brush strokes were light, whereas Verrocchio preferred to use heavy brush strokes.  When the Annunciation was x-rayed, Leonardo’s angel was invisible.  How very like Leonardo to add dramatic flair to the event.

Happy Birthday Leonardo.  You are my reminder to cultivate a curious mind, to search for the unknown and work with a glad heart to generate good things.  As you said, centuries ago:

“Time stays long enough for anyone who will use it.”