Franz Marc, "Horse in a Landscape", 1910, oil on canvas, 85 x 112 cm, Museum Folkwang, Essen.
Franz Marc, 1880-1916, was a German painter and printmaker who is known for the intense mysticism of his paintings of animals. He was a founding member of Der Blaue Reiter, an association of German Expressionist artists. Marc’s early works were painted in a naturalistic academic style, but after discovering French Impressionist painting in 1903 he adopted a more modern approach, using simplified lines and vivid colours. During a trip to Paris in 1907 he encountered the work of the Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh, whose vigorous, emotional brushwork profoundly influenced him. In 1910 Marc met the Russian-born painter Wassily Kandinsky, who was a member of a group of Expressionist artists. Marc joined the group in 1911 and worked closely with another member, the young painter August Macke, whose idiosyncratic use of broad areas of rich colour led Marc to experiment with similar techniques. Marc & Kandinsky formed a new group of artists in 1911 named Der Blaue Reiter. Having long been interested in Eastern philosophies and religions, Marc responded enthusiastically to Kandinsky’s notion that art should lay bare the spiritual essence of natural forms instead of copying their objective appearance. Kandinsky and Marc developed the idea that mystical energy is best revealed through abstraction. Marc believed that civilization destroys human awareness of the spiritual force of nature; consequently, he usually painted animals. Horse In Landscape' is one of the earliest works where Franz Marc, inspired by Kandinsky, experiments with colors. In this painting, there's a purple horse with a blue mane and tail looking over a landscape defined by yellow, red, green and blue areas. The horse is standing with its back to the observer, so that it can take the viewer's perspective. In this painting, as in his other mature works, Marc used a well-defined symbology of colour: blue, yellow, green, and red each stood for specific emotional qualities. Marc joined the German army in 1914 and was killed in combat two years later.