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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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Abstraction was at its strongest in Franz Marc's work towards the end of his career as displayed in Fighting Forms

Two key artworks came at the end of Franz Marc's life - namely Fighting Forms and The Fate of the Animals.

The earlier painting of Mandrill suggested at this direction towards non-representational form and it is very intriguing to consider how far he would have taken it if given the opportunity.

Comparisons can be made with the likes of Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondrian who would achieve truly minimalist simplicity in their careers.

Fighting Forms has sometimes been translated as Forms in Combat, from its original German title of Kampfende Formen. The clear division in this painting represents WWI, or good against evil as much of the propaganda on both sides would try to portray.

Franz Marc produced this artwork as the third in a series of four, which also included Cheerful Forms, Playing Forms and Broken Forms. The message communicated here by the artist was that war was impending, and likely to result in destruction. Colour takes over from form to create areas of good and bad, in combat with each other.

Despite his clear concerns over the war, Franz Marc enthusiastically signed up to fight for his country, and it was this decision that would ultimately bring his career to a close.

Franz Marc was an exceptional artist in his time, as clearly conveyed by his various works. The majority of his paintings depicted animals, such as The Yellow Cow, a painting of, funnily enough, a yellow cow, running along what seems to be the bank of an orange river. His work was doubtlessly brilliant and, to a certain extent, abstract, however almost always centered around some form of animal. This is one of the primary reasons Fighting Forms stands out so prominently against the rest.

Fighting Forms, the very last painting produced by this man, was painted in 1914, at the beginning of World War two. It depicts two great opposing forces. One such force is bright red, surrounded by a variety of others, and seems to be trying to overwhelm the much darker black force, who seems to be losing this power battle.

This piece, while abstract in style, is also brutally clear. It depicts a great struggle for supremacy, good and evil attempting to overcome each other, perhaps for control of great power, perhaps simply because the two were enemies. The cause of this sort of work, showing off the battle of Yin and Yang, was clearly propaganda. Propaganda led the German people to believe strongly in good and evil. The Germans are the good, red side, crushing the opposing darkness, all the rest of Europe.

Franz Marc unfortunately was killed in the war in 1916, meaning that Fighting Forms was to be his very last painting. He enlisted into the German army as a cavalryman in 1914. In 1916, an order was sent for all renowned artists to be withdrawn from combat. Unfortunately, the orders could not reach Marc quickly enough, and he was killed in combat in the Battle of Verdun.