Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Franz Marc: Forms in Combat (1914)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

With the war ongoing in Iraq, with a U.S. war with Iran looming on the horizon, and with so many other wars, large and small, civil and not, raging around the world, this seemed like an appropriate image to post this Labo(u)r Day.

The great Expressionist Franz Marc, a key member of the Blaue Reiter group (a co-founder with Kandinsky, Macke, Jawlensky, and others), was perhaps best-known for his colourful and, in later years, proto-cubist studies of animals in nature, such as The Yellow Cow (1911), Cat on a Yellow Pillow (1912), and The Fate of the Animals (1913), as well as for magnificent studies of the natural world, such as Tyrol (1914). His early naturalism had already given way by 1913-14 to more complex compositions -- see his entry at Wikipedia Commons for more -- and by 1914 his style had become fully abstract, his work non-representational and anti-naturalist.

The image below is Forms in Combat, a powerful work from 1914 that anticipated the Great War that was then looming on the horizon and that would, later that year, engulf Europe. Marc himself was, at first, an enthusiast, like so many others, including some of Britain's more famous war poets: "This is the only way of cleaning out the Augean stable of Europe," Marc wrote in a letter to Kandinsky, "or is there a single person who does not wish this war might happen?"

Marc, a German, volunteered for the army. He was killed on March 4, 1916, at the age of 36.

Forms in Combat (or Fighting Forms) is in the collection of the Pinakothek der Moderne (museum of modern art) in Munich, the city of Marc's birth.

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