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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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This work, "Leaping Horse" (Das Springende Pferd), was created in 1912 following acclaim for his "Leaping Horses" painting created two years earlier

The son of a professor at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts, it was perhaps inevitable Franz Marc would feel drawn to art, however this happened only when he had worked past early plans to become a priest and study philosophy.

Aged 20, he decided to take painting classes at the academy where his father had taught. Trips to Paris followed, where he was influenced by the work of French impressionist painters and also Vincent Van Gogh, whose work he had particularly admired.

With Vassily Kandinsky, whom he met at the Academy, Marc was a founder member of Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider Group), an early German school of expressionism.

Other notable members of the group included Paul Klee, August Macke, Gabriele Munter and Alexeji Jawlensky.

The horse was one of the key motifs employed by Marc (February 1880 - March 1916) through which he sought to evoke underlying patterns he detected in nature.

In common with his contemporary Paul Signac, Marc embraced the cubist use of blocks of colour to evoke the impression of movement in a fluid object. It was this use of cubism and its application to expressionism, that led to Marc becoming recognised as one of Europe's foremost Modern artists.

The strong, yet muted, colour palate he used and the vibrancy of movement within the image itself has provoked more than a century of admiration and led to countless reproductions of the work.

Today, it has pride of place in the Franz Marc Museum at Kochel am See, a small town in the Bavarian Alps where Marc had lived. Tragically the advent of the First World War led to an early end to the work of the Blue Rider Group. Marc volunteered for military service, believing that this would provide a relief to his life at the time but soon after this, he witnessed the death of his friend and fellow Blue Rider Macke.

The life of this artistic genius was ended at the age of 36 as he served in military action at Verdun in France in full military action.