Born in Munich at the beginning of 1880, Marc's played a pivotal part in the Expressionist movement in Germany. 'Birds' was painted in oils on canvas in 1914 and shows why he was such a key figure in the movement during the early 20th Century.

'Birds' shows Marc's interest in the symbolic nature of art. The painting's strong columns of light in bold and bright colours move up and out, conveying a sense of freedom.

The subject matter of birds in flight could also be seen as symbolic of messengers of the gods and with the First World War breaking out this painting shows at once both a sense of hope while also conveying an idea of a fractured world.

Franz Marc was greatly influenced by Van Gogh and his colour symbolism. But where Van Gogh still kept to identifiable features in his post-impressionistic style, Marc moved his art towards expressionism.

In this 1914 painting, 'Birds', it is clear that Marc is playing about with style even more. There is definitely a cubist feel about the painting with the birds' wings becoming very abstract, represented instead by straight lines and columns of colour.

His two trips to Paris in 1903 and 1907 allowed Marc to move away from the traditional academic naturalism of the University of Munich where he first studied. Instead, he embraced the styles of Van Gogh, Gauguin, and the Cubist style of Paul Cezanne.

The Expressionists moved art away from realism and instead allowed art to come from within the artist. In 'Birds', the painting can be seen as a message from Marc. His use of colour in the painting is very important.

In his own words,'Blue is the male principle, stern and spiritual. Yellow the female principle, gentle, cheerful and sensual. Red is matter, brutal and heavy and always the colour which must be fought and vanquished by the other two.'

The two birds in the centre of the painting are shown through the masculine blue and feminine yellow. The colours move up and eventually merge into green showing the hope Marc still held for the future. However, they are surrounded on all sides by the brutal and heavy red. The image is at once hopeful and violent.