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Marc's depiction of Julian shows him at his worst
Marc painted St Julian the Hospitaller in 1913. It is an extremely important painting as it illustrates Gustav Flaubert's short story about the Saint and Franz Marc's ideas about humankind and the animal world. Originally painted in watercolours, gouache and bronze powder, Marc's religious themed painting demonstrates the cubist ideas of flat geometric shapes to represent objects, sides and angles without the need for shading.
Flaubert's story of St. Julian describes a boy who killed a mouse in church one day. The boy grew into a man who loved to kill animals for sport. He even massacred a whole herd of deer.
One day a stag which he had injured, spoke to him. The stag warned Julian that he would kill his own parents. Despite efforts to change, this eventually occurred.
Julian left his wife and lived by a deserted river crossing, riddled with guilt and sin. One day he ferried a dirty vagabond across the river, who demanded food and drink.
Julian obliged and even gave the man a bed for the night. That man was Jesus and took Julian straight to heaven. Saint Julian is the patron saint for ferryman, innkeepers and provides hospitality to travellers needing safe lodgings.
Dressed in his hunting clothes, the deer and boar cower in fear. He is painted in blue representing the masculine, severe side and there is an abundance of red showing the brutal violent nature of his actions against the animals.
The harsh background of severed trees adds to the atmosphere of this piece. In religious terms the image is suggestive of Jesus' treatment by the Roman Soldiers as he bore the cross.
Marc loved animals and their pure, innocent spirits, so the viewer can imagine the feeling and emotion with which he must have painted this scene.
This remarkable picture tells so many stories and is part of Franz Marc' wonderful gift to the world.