Franz Marc was an Expressionist painter who formed Der Blaue Reiter group with Wassily Kandinsky. They were part of an artistic movement who were searching for spiritual truth through their art. Marc believed that colour had a vocabulary of emotional keys that we instinctively understand, much in the same way that we understand music. This language of colour was one tool that Marc used to raise his art to a higher spiritual plane; another was his choice of subject.
Franz Marc painted animals as they symbolised an age of innocence, like Eden before the Fall, free from the materialism and corruption of his own time. Animals in Marc’s art are seldom painted in isolation. They are viewed as idealized creatures in perfect harmony with the natural world they inhabit.
I am trying to intensify my feeling for the organic rhythm of all things, to achieve pantheistic empathy with the throbbing and flowing of nature’s bloodstream in trees, in animals, in the air.
Tiger is a typical example of Franz Marc’s painting style. It is a fusion of several influences: the expressive and symbolic use of colour that he discovered in the paintings of Van Gogh and Gauguin combined with the fragmented and prismatic compositions of various Cubist styles.
Blue is the male principle, astringent and spiritual. Yellow is the female principle, gentle, gay and spiritual. Red is matter, brutal and heavy and always the colour to be opposed and overcome by the other two.
The Tiger and its surroundings are composed of geometric shapes whose similarity suggests both the camouflage of the tiger in its natural habitat and the harmony between the creature and its environment. Colour is the main element used to separate the tiger from its background. Strong yellow and black shapes outline its form to convey the markings of the beast. The geometric shapes that make up its form are carefully scaled and simplified to represent the tiger’s features and its muscular body, while their rhythmic movement is echoed in the stylized shapes of the rocks and foliage of the background. This is indeed an idealistic view of nature – an image designed to lift its subject above the brutality of nature in the raw.
Franz Marc yearned for a life on a higher spiritual plane. In fact, before he took up art, he studied theology with a view to entering the priesthood. Ironically, his death was a sad contradiction of his hopes and dreams. He volunteered for service in the army at the start of World War 1 and never painted again. He was killed by a piece of shrapnel in 1916, during the assault on Verdun, the longest and bloodiest battle of the war.
The Creatures: a poem by Glen Downie, a Toronto poet who won the 2008 Toronto Book Award for his collection of poems, Loyalty Management. He has also published fiction, non-fiction, reviews and six books of poetry.