Franz Marc

Biography of Franz Marc

Despite his life being tragically cut short at the Battle of Verdun in 1916, Franz Marc’s short-lived artistic career had tremendous impact on future expressionist movements. The German painter’s stark linearity and impassioned use of color has become synonymous with expressions of positivity during a time of anguish and trauma of war.


Franz Marc was born in Munich in 1880, into a devout catholic family. Contrary however to many of his artistic colleagues, Marc was free to embark on his artistic career without encountering opposition from his family. Marc’s father was an amateur landscape painter, who is said to have influenced Marc’s decision to study at Munich’s Academy of Fine Arts after the artist had completed his military service.    


Initially Franz Marc worked in a realist style. However, early travels to Paris, Berlin and Cologne, opened his mind to new artistic techniques, inspiring him to break free from traditional painting constraints and pushed him towards abstraction. Returning to Munich he was exposed to the Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) movement; the movement’s use of decorative motifs and expressive use of line to depict natural subjects moved Marc to develop a bolder more expressive style.


Such newfound artistic interests led Franz Marc, alongside a loose association of avant-garde artists such as Kandinsky, Paul Klee and August Macke, to establish the artistic journal and group Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), known to many as the zenith of German Expressionism. Founded in opposition to the traditional styles of the mainstream Munich Artists’ Association, the group emphasized the use of abstracted forms and bold colors. They also published essays on their analysis of color and its infinite symbolism, along with the symptomatic importance of animals at a time when the harsh realities of modernity in the pre-War era seemed inescapable.


Today Franz Marc’s fame rests above all on his depictions of animals. To him animals were the best antidote to the dregs of modern life, and through depicting them he believed he could create an alternate, more spiritual vision of the world. In his short-lived career the artist made over sixty prints of animals in woodcut and lithography. Condemned by the Nazis as a “degenerate artist”, today Marc is one of Germany’s best-known painters. His legacy and impact on future artistic movements, most notably Abstract Expressionism cannot be understated, with both Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning often cited as his descendants. Today Franz Marc’s work is shown across the world, notably in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and MoMA in New York and the Kunsthalle Basel.



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