Of German origin and born on February 8 1880, Marc was a painter in the expressionist style and was a founder of Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) group. Other members of the group included Wassily Kandinsky whose painting Last Judgement had been rejected for an exhibition.
The group claimed no artistic manifesto but other members included Paul Klee, Albert Bloch, August Macke and Marianne von Werefkin and it is believed that the title of the group derived from Marc and Kandinsky’s fondness for the colour blue, horses and their riders. Kandinsky wrote (in On the Spritual in Art, 1911) that blue was the colour that represented spirituality.
Marc’s philosophical approach to painting is exemplified by his use of animals as subject matter and Deer in a Monastery Garden is no exception. Symbolising an Eden freed from the corruption of materialism, animals for Marc represented a way for him to achieve movement to a higher spiritual plane, perhaps an inevitable yearning following his theological studies that he had hoped would lead him into a life in priesthood.
The painting also is typical of Marc’s approach to depicting animals. Here we see the deer in garden, a monastery garden, again evoking his theological studies; the animal is at peace and in harmony with its surroundings, another theme of Marc’s and a further representation of his search for spiritual harmony on a higher level than the materialistic world in which he lived.
After volunteering for service at the outbreak of World War I Marc joined the army. He sadly never painted again after that undertaking, for he was killed by shrapnel in 1916 during the assault upon Verdun, one of the bloodiest and longest during the whole war.