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  • Franz Marc
    Feb 8, 1880 - Mar 4, 1916
  • The Tower of Blue Horses - Franz Marc was a German painter and printmaker, one of the key figures of the German Expressionist movement. He was a founding member of Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), a journal whose name later became synonymous with the circle of artists collaborating in it. Nearly all works of art created by Franz Marc show animals.
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The Tower of Blue Horses
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  • The Tower of Blue Horses

  • Franz Marc
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  • 1913
    Oil on canvas
    200 cm (78.74 in.) x 130 cm (51.18 in.)

    On its surface, The Tower of Blue Horses presents a far less dramatic image than Fate of the Animals. There are no streaking diagonals, no screaming helpless animals, no forest in flames, that give the latter painting such an overwhelming sense of action, and indeed, such an omnipresent aura of disaster. There is nothing rushed, nothing frantic, nothing desperate about The Tower of Blue Horses. At first glance, the two paintings may appear totally dissimilar in their imagery and thematic representation. Upon closer examination of the second of these major works, The Tower of Blue Horses, we shall see that this is not, in fact, the case.

    Whereas Fate of the Animals is a work constructed primarily upon diagonals, The Tower of Blue Horses is built predominantly upon verticals. The most immediately observable feature of this construction lies in the configuration of the animals themselves. Ignoring linear perspective, Marc has arranged four blue horses, one above the other, on either an ascending or descending plane. The body of the lowest horse, its lines clear and precise, is echoed in the bodies of the two horses immediately above it, and, in seeking to solidify this construction, the artist has traced a vertical line which leads from the right foreleg of the lower foreground horse, into the body of the horse occupying what would appear to be the middle ground, and which culminates in the shank of the third and most elevated horse in the background. The line is continued from the tail of this horse into the sky, above ad behind it, where we can quite readily see a distinct separation into yellow and blue segments.
    Another significant aspect of this verticality can be noticed in Marc's depiction of the landscape. Here we see three massive, boulder-like objects piled one on top of the other, the culminating in the triangular mountainous from of the highest of the three. Above this mountainous form, a somewhat modified rainbow, composed only of red, orange, yellow, and green, forms an arc across the top left-center of the painting, sweeping behind the most elevated of the horses and ending at the head of the seemingly transparent, red-faced horse at the upper right.

    The central focus of the Tower of Blue Horses is, as one might reasonably anticipate, on the horses themselves. Neither the depiction of a group of horses nor the position which the horses which the horses of the painting occupy represents an entirely novel departure for Mar. As we have seen, his preoccupation with the representation of horses goes back at least as early as 1905, and his first attempt to realize a harmonious grouping of these animals is dated once year later. Initially, however, his preference seems to have been for a horizontal emphasis.

    Painted a few months before Fate of the Animals, in the winter of 1913, The Tower of Blue Horses was also first exhibited at the First German Herbstsalon in the fall of that year. In 1919 it was purchased by Ldwig Justi for the National Gallery in Berlin, where it remained for the next eighteen years. It was declared "degenerate" by the Nazis in 1937, removed from its position in the National Gallery, and exhibited in the "Entartete Kunst" exhibition held in Munch that same year. Considerable protest, however, was voiced throughout Germany at Marc's inclusion in the exhibition. Apparently, the protest was successful for Hitler himself ordered the immediate removal of Marc's paintings from the show. Oddly enough, it was the last opportunity of the public to view The Tower of Blue Horses, for, since its removal from the notorious 1937 extravaganza, the location of the work has continued to remain a mystery.

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Other paintings by Franz Marc:

Four Foxes
Four Foxes
Blue Horse I
Blue Horse I
Franz MarcFranz Marc was born in Munich, Bavaria. His father, an artist, encouraged him to study art, but Marc studied theology and philosophy before entering the Munich Art Academy in 1900. Marc was a moody young man and had difficulty finding a way to express himself. During his first trip to Paris in 1903, he had his first contacts with the Impressionists, and was particularly impressed with the work of Henri Rousseau. In the following year, contact with the avant-garde "Jugendstil" group in Munich helped him to clarify his own ideas. When he made a second trip to Paris in 1907, he saw the work of van Gogh.

In 1910 he met Macke and Kandinsky, became a member of the "Blaue Reiter" group, worked on their first almanac, and participated in the first Blaue Reiter exhibit in Germany. Marc, who wrote that "matter is something which the human mind suffers, at best, but does not recognize," began to develop his own form of expression in 1912 as the result of a meeting with Delaunay. In his effort to paint the spiritual side of nature, just as Kandinsky sought to paint the spiritual nature of man, Marc painted animals. Within a year he was painting landscapes and was well on the road to abstraction, but whether he would have continued on this path is, again, a matter of conjecture. Marc's career ended abruptly on the battlefield of Verdun in 1916. Our only knowledge of the last two years of his life has come from his notebook, found beside him and filled with nonobjective drawings depicting a world of horror.