Thursday, January 31, 2013

Franz Marc

Franz Marc is the first artist I was intrigued by in the Degenerate Art: Fate of the Avante-Garde in Nazi Germany.  I wanted to see more of his artwork.  These are the paintings I was drawn to:

Yellow Cow                                                      

The Red Horses

And below, Large Lenggries Horse, is one of the most beautiful works I've ever seen.  The forms of these horses appear on the canvas like a dream; a golden, nearly transparent dream that I never want to end.

The trauma of the war for Marc was such that, at the end, only death could give him relief. In that state his own innocence could be restored. One of Marc's last letters:

"I understand well that you speak as easily of death as of something which doesn't frighten you. I feel precisely the same. In this war, you can try it out on yourself - an opportunity life seldom offers one...nothing is more calming than the prospect of the peace of death...the one thing common to all. It leads us back into normal "being". The space between birth and death is an exception, in which there is much to fear and suffer. The only true, constant, philosophical comfort is the awareness that this exceptional condition will pass and that "I-conciousness" which is always restless, always piquant, in all seriousness inaccessible, will again sink back into its wonderful peace before birth... whoever strives fro purity and knowledge, to him death always comes as a savior.”  Wow.  My thoughts exactly.

I read this quote from Franz Marc about Vincent Van Gough:

"Van Gogh is for me the most authentic, the greatest, the most poignant painter I know. To paint a bit of the most ordinary nature, putting all one's faith and longings into it - that is the supreme achievement... Now I paint... only the simplest things... Only in them are the symbolism, the pathos, and the mystery of nature to be found.”  Is that cool or what.

My thoughts, he uses a lot of color, which is probably what initially attracted me to his work.  I chose some of my favorites of his work.  They are lyrical, mystical pieces delicate, bold and stretch with a vibrancy that is muscular in nature.  He was part of The Blue Rider Group.  When I went back to Columbia College my art teacher went overseas for a project for a month or so and a colleague of his came from NYC to work with us.  He used to come over to me and just watch.  When I would stop and stand back to look at the way it was moving he asked me questions like why did I use this color or why did I use the paint and move it this way or that.  And I'd answer...   I'll show you.

This is the painting I was working on.

It was a live model work and the model was extremely thin.  I could see the bones of her ribcage.  Like a cage with a bird inside.  She didn't look emaciated by choice but maybe by some other reason, self image or something.  Anyway, she was sitting in a chair with a typical studio back wall.  The rest of this composition and the coloring of her was what I felt like putting on the canvas.  I told the teacher about my accident and brain injury and that ever since then I felt a connection with nature. That all that separated me from the trees and the road and the breeze had disappeared and it had all become movement.  And that this winds up finding its way into my work, without a plan.  I actually painted this one twice.  The first time I wanted to even some paint out and accidentally scratched a hole in the canvas.  So I did it again and ripped up the first one.  The reason I gave it the name, "Schroedinger's Cat," was completely intentional.

Then he asked me if I had ever heard of The Blue Rider Group and I said no.  I hadn't had a clue.  I looked up the Fauves, which was the other name he asked me about and I saw the similarity, bright use of color.  For the first time I felt like the right word, expressionist, described the kind of artwork I did.  Until I read the bio and some of the thoughts of Franz Marc I did not understand his depth or the spiritual connection he was expressing.  I did not understand how the turmoil that was in the world at this time had effected his work and the work of several of his contemporaries.  I did not understand the onset of WWI.  

It is ironic that for five years before the accident and my brain injury I was interviewing and writing the stories of  WWII survivors, death camp captives and death camp liberators and reading countless books trying to understand how regular people could become complicit in the worst kind of acts against one another I'd ever read about or seen.  It was such a world wide spread of questionable ethical and moral behavior.  And I often wondered, what would I have done? 
Back to Franz Marc, in  1911 he co-founded the Der Blaue Reiter journal or the Blue Rider Group with Wassily Kandinsky.  And in 1914 he was living in France where his work continued to ripen into pure genius.  This became the center of an artist circle with Macke and Kandinsky and others who split off from the (New Artist's Association) movement.

Wassily Kandinsky later recalled how the name Blue Rider was born:

"Franz Marc and I chose this name as we were having coffee one day on the shady terrace of Sindelsdorf. Both of us liked blue, Marc for horses, I for riders. So the name Blue Rider came by itself." For Franz Marc the group had become something like a home. He suddenly had companions with whom he could exchange his ideas about art. He developed a close friendship with Kandinsky and with August Macke. The group had a very positive effect on Marc's creativity. His artistic output nearly exploded - both in quality and in quantity.

The above painting is called, "Fate of Animals."  In Franz Marc's own words, "And all being is flaming agony"in a letter to his wife during WWI he wrote, it "is like a premonition of this war—horrible and shattering. I can hardly conceive that I painted it."  Below is Fighting Form.  I  could spend my entire life looking at this everyday and still there would be room for one more thought.
Fighting Forms by Franz Marc

This piece is so amazing that if I looked at it everyday of my life I would still feel like I was exploring new territory.

And I just realized that one of my favorite paintings in the Chicago Art Institute, "The Waterfall," was painted by Franz Marc.  I've even done a color pencil study of it and never made a connection with the artist who created it.


In 1916 he enlisted as a cavalryman in the German army and he started painting huge canvases that were the forefront of camouflage that was used to hide troop movement and weapons.  The army decided to put him in a list of those artists that should be taken out of battle but before this happened he was struck in the head by a shell splinter and he died on the battlefield in 1916.

In 1937, Joseph Goebbels, Minister for Propaganda organized a public exhibition of banned art. The exhibition was called, "Entartete Kunst," which meant, "Degenerate Art." Most who were on this list were tortured or killed, if they hadn't escaped already. 

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