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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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Resting Cows Expressionism Painting by Franz Marc

The Resting Cows is a painting by Franz Marc completed in 1911. It is part of his animal painting series that used the expressionism technique to portray specific emotions. Franz Marc loved to assign spiritual attributes to animals for he found humans were heavily lacking in the same.

In this magnificent piece, Marc uses bright colours on the three cows that take up most of the canvas. The first cow, on the foreground is all white with red accents on the hind leg, the hump and around the eye.

The second cow, immediately behind the first one also takes the same colour while the third one is a mix between black and yellow. The cows are resting on green grounds, probably the pasture in which they were grazing.

Anyone who knows Franz Marc understands that his work wasn’t as simple to explain as above. Behind the obvious impression of the painting lies a deeper meaning Franz was trying to portray.

One could try and decipher what the painter had in mind by studying the colours used on every painting as Franz was famously known to give meaning to every colour he used.

Whenever Franz used bright colours, he was trying to portray a feeling of joy, peace or generally a positive vibe in the painting. The vivid greenness of the grass could symbolise plenty or an abundance that cultivates satisfaction as seen in how relaxed the cows are.

Red was a tone Franz used to symbolise brutalism or conflict, thus it boggles the mind as to why he used red on two of the cows. A viewer could argue that two of the cows, with red tones, could be dissatisfied despite having plenty while the third cow, in yellow is happy at its immediate habitat.

Given his love for animals, Franz often used them as subjects whenever he found the opportunity. Other paintings he is famous for include The Elephant, Dead Sparrow, Head of the Horse, Jumping Dog Schlick and Deer at Dusk to mention a few.