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Franz Marc's use of colour to symbolise man's relationship with nature is perfectly captured in his Large Blue Horses artwork of 1911
Blue horses are encapsulated here within a halo-like swirl of white. In the background sits an abstract scene which also utilises Franz Marc's use of colour for symbolism.
The artist would feature horses in several other works from this time in his career and it is clear that this animal held many of the characteristics that he needed for his symbolic displays.
Besides there, he would also make use of several other animals in his work, such as cows and pigs. He held a similar appreciation for the relative naivety of animals as compared to humans as that of Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. He famously produced sketches of owls and penguins.
The Franz Marc painting, Large Blue Horses, is probably the best known of his many paintings. Its original German title was Die grossen blauen Pferde, and it was painted in 1911.
Featuring the artist’s signature pallette of vivid, primary colours, the oil on canvas painting depicts three large blue horses standing together in a group, in front of a stylised landscape of red hills. The horses take up most of the canvas and are made of completely curving lines.
Franz Marc was a German artist who belonged to a group called Der Blaue Reiter, or The Blue Riders. This was a group of Expressionist artists, who aimed to create art that depicted feelings, instead of a direct copy of reality.
His Large Blue Horses painting was included in the group’s first exhibition in Munich, in December 1911. It was purchased in 1919 by a German collector, F J Weck, who lived in Zurich. The painting left Europe when the Nazis came to power in Germany, as Marc was on their list of banned artists that they considered ‘degenerate.’
The painting travelled to the USA, where it was purchased in 1942 by the T.B. Walker Foundation. Today, it is on display at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Most of Franz Marc’s work was based on nature and animals, painted in bright colours. He assigned different emotions and feelings to different colours. Blue was, to him, a masculine colour that also indicated spirituality.
The three blue horses were intended to portray peaceful harmony, contrasted with the violence and aggression of the red hills behind them.
Marc died of a shrapnel wound while serving in the German army in 1916, but before he died he told his wife that the painting was a premonition of the war. He had written on the back of the painting, “And all being is flaming agony.”