Gelbe Kuh, to use it's original German title, captures an unusually upbeat and natural reflection of animal life, when normally the artist would use them to communicate his own views on society.
This painting is almost a release for Franz Marc, no concerns displayed here about the inevitability of war or the selfishness of man.
The artist chose to depict cows in several paintings, also creating Cows Yellow, Red & Green plus Resting Cows. It is likely that Franz Marc added blues and reds for background elements in this particular painting in order to balance the artwork, having made yellow tones so dominant for its the main focus.
It was around 1908 that Franz Marc's oeuvre would begin to become dominated by animals, with Yellow Cow following in 1911. His previous landscape work would continue, but only now as a supporting cast to his symbolic craetures. Foxes, Horses, Cats, Dogs and Pigs all featured at various stages, alongside the stunning cow displayed here.
The original work is now owned by the Guggenheim Museum in New York. It is relatively large for Franz Marc, stretching to 140 x 190cm. It is seen as one of the most significant paintings from both Franz Marc's career, but also the German Expressionists as a whole.
Artist Marc took great pride in his work and in the early stages of his multi-coloured, expressionist style he had concerns that many would see his application of colour as entirely random. Similar accusations have been levelled at the work of Jackson Pollock, with his drip artworks, and also Fauvists like Henri Matisse and Robert Delaunay.
In order to clarify his style, he would broadly label different tones with specific emotions. He famously declared his choices to close friend, and reowned artist, August Macke.
The Yellow Cow was painted in 1911 after the marriage of Marc to Maria Franck, one of the subjects of Two Women on the Hillside. This work showcases Marc's use of colours to represent emotion, an idea pioneered by Vincent Van Gogh and continued by some of Marc's contemporaries. Marc used the colour yellow to represent female emotions whereas he used blue to signify masculine emotions.
Merging the two colours together onto the form of the cow is Marc commenting on the union of himself and Franck and the intertwining of their emotional energies. The use of colour throughout the composition evokes feelings of calmness, security and the work resounds with a soothing grace.
His recent marriage and the feelings of marital bliss resonate throughout this work. Marc also uses colour to merge the yellow cow in the foreground with the earth in the background, something he repeats for the small cluster of red cows in the middle of the painting.
Marc's technique of repeating lines can be seen in this work as we see the lines of the cow echoed throughout the painting, in the lines of the sky and of the earth. The stark brown lines of the tree trunks frame the yellow cow as it leaps carelessly through the air with a look of bliss and serenity.
The combination of soothing colours and calming lines lends this work an overall feeling of happiness and contentment and represents a further step away from the more realist works of his earlier career with less focus on form and more of an interest in colour and the power of representation that colour can have.