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This painting, Blaues Pferd, or Blue Horse, by the Expressionist painter Franz Marc was created in 1911, the same year that Marc founded The Blue Riders (Der Blaue Reiter)
Marc and fellow artists in the group, such as Macke and Kandinsky formed an artist's circle which was focused on the importance of colour, expression, and symbolism.
Marc showed several of his new paintings at the first Der Blaue Reiter exhibition at the Thannhauser Galleries in Munich in late 1911.
Franz Marc was captivated by the study of animals. Not only was he fascinated by their anatomy and environment, but also by their rich inner worlds. Each painting of his animal subjects is deeply emotional. This is not only due to Marc's extensive knowledge of animal anatomy, but also because of his remarkable use of colour.
As Marc explained in a letter in 1910, “Blue is the masculine principle, astringent and spiritual. Yellow the female principle, gentle, gay and sensuous. Red is matter, brutal and heavy and always the colour that the other two must oppose and overcome!”
Indeed, looking at Blue Horse, the young, masculine horse tilts his head, as if in sensitive contemplation. He appears innocent and youthful. Franz Marc chose animal subjects for his paintings because to him, they represented innocence, an existence before the fall of Eden. Horses especially represented a freedom and purity of spirit.
Combining animals with specific colours, he was able to convey these sentiments to the viewer. The young horse in this painting does seem to exist on a more spiritual plane than our own.
While Franz Marc's art often portrayed security, serenity, and spirituality, his life took a much darker turn. He was killed by a piece of shrapnel in 1916, during the assault on Verdun, despite his fear and hatred of war.