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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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August Macke lived a short but influential life which we delve into in this extensive biography. His birth name was August Robert Ludwig Macke.

Macke was born in in Meschede, Westphalia, Germany in 1887. His father, August Friedrich Hermann Macke, was an amateur artist, alongside his day job in the construction industry. It is likely that his parents gave him his first experience in art and the support that they would have given him to pursue this dream would have been crucial in his eventual success. Most other families at this time would have discouraged their children away from art, towards a more established and reliable career.

The family chose to move shortly after August Jr’s birth to the city of Cologne before then moving on again to Bonn at around the turn of the century. It was during his studies here in his mid-teens that he would become friends with Walter Gerhardt and he would later marry Gerhardt's sister, Elisabeth.

The Early Artistic Influences on August Macke

August Friedrich Hermann Macke was a particularly talented draughtsman and it would be his drawings that initially inspired his young son to pursue an artistic path. Although just an amateur, he would happily introduce his son to his work and often displayed them around the family home. This set a spark off in August Jr's mind which would lead to an interest in other artistic styles and movements which continued throughout his life.

Japanese art would then open his eyes to more exotic styles, and his exposure to this came through the collection of a friend's father. It may not have been the most prestigious or comprehensive of collections but it revealed to August an exciting plethora of new ideas and techniques of which he had previously been completely unaware. Famous Japanese artists had already influenced countless European artists over several centuries, with the actual practice labelled Japonism. Key exponents of this included Vincent van Gogh, James Whistler, Childe Hassam and Claude Monet. See also Klimt paintings.

The paintings of Arnold Böcklin came to his attention in around 1900 and they would leave a significant mark for several years. It was only after further studies that he would change his perception towards this artist. In the next few years the artist was fortunate enough to combine travel with his development, visiting the likes of Italy, Netherlands, Belgium and the UK in order to expand his knowledge around European art history. His studies were based in the city of Dusseldorf for the most part, with this enthusiastic student also taking on extra classes where he could in order to speed his development. August sadly lost his father at around this time but this did not disuade him from the path that his family had encouraged him to follow.