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