My first experience of [Franz Marc]—a large one man show at Der modernen Galerie in Munich early in 1911 before I had met the man
himself, took me captive at first sight . . . [h]ere, at last, I found painting which fed in full measure my need and my longing . . .
Franz MarcKühe (Cows), 1912 Gouache, watercolor, and ink on paper
9 3/8 x 11 inches
23.8 x 27.9 cm
Franz Marc, a leader of the German Expressionist movement in the early years of the twentieth century, is best-known for the unique visual language he created to communicate a spiritual message transcending the materialism of the modern age. Painted in 1912, Kühe (Cows) illustrates Marc’s visionary approach that includes expressive color and simplified forms, and was painted during a critical period when he was active with an international community of artists who were loosely tied by style and deeply bound by mission. In January 1911, Wassily Kandinsky visited Marc’s Munich studio and soon discovered their shared artistic goals, creating an international association known as Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider). The striking woodcut image of a rider on horseback that appears on the cover of their almanac symbolizes moving away from traditional artistic representation and into new forms of expression based on emotion and primitivism. Marc and Kandinsky described their universal aspirations in the almanac: “The whole body of work we call art knows neither borders nor nations but only humanity.” The landmark exhibition of Der Blaue Reiter was held at Thannhauser Gallery in Munich in 1912, and stands out as one of the most important events in the history of modern art. Among the roster of vanguard artists are Gabriele Münter, August Macke and Albert Bloch, representing diverse artistic styles that were central to the German Expressionist movement. The group's activities were short-lived but historically significant—they dissolved with the outbreak of World War I. Marc ceased painting in 1914 when he was called to service, and was tragically killed on the French front lines in 1916.
Like other German Expressionists, Marc’s spiritual outlook took inspiration from the natural world, but his choice of animals as subject was unusual. For Marc, animals represented a greater manifestation of purity than he found in the world around him, and became the primary theme of his art by 1907. Kandinsky recalled, “Everything in nature attracted [Marc], but above all, the animals.” Marc was interested in animals as subjects from a young age in Munich, and later carefully studied animal movements in nature and at the Berlin zoo. In Kühe, overlapping triangles create a prismatic effect that shows the animals in harmony with their surroundings. Marc employs Cubist and Futurist devices, and displays the range of hues at the core of his color theory: “Blue is the male principle, astringent and spiritual. Yellow is the female principle, gentle, happy and spiritual. Red is matter, brutal and heavy and always the color to be opposed and overcome by the other two.” Marc made just over 40 prints during his brief career, and used an unrelated lithograph, Hirschpaar, in creating this work, painting directly over the stone’s marks (Annegret Hoberg and Isabelle Jansen, Franz Marc: The Complete Works, Vol. 2, Munich, 2004, no. 215). As a sign of their friendship, Marc gave Kühe to fellow Blue Rider artist, Albert Bloch in 1912, the year it was completed. Kühe remained in Bloch’s possession throughout his lifetime and became part of his estate until it was transferred to the Albert Bloch Foundation, Kansas City, Missouri, in 2003.
If you are interested in speaking with us directly about the available work, or would like to learn more about Franz Marc, please do not hesitate to connect with Alana Ricca by phone call, to the gallery at (212) 879-8815, or by mobile at (203) 524-2694. We look forward to being in touch with you soon.