Tag Archives: Colour

Franz Marc, German artist, painter of not just cats & abstract blue horses

German Artist, Franz Marc, 1880-1916

The Tower of Blue Horses, Franz Marc, 1913
Franz Marc, “The Tower of Blue Horses”, 1913, (missing since 1945)

Bavarian artist Franz Marc died 100 years ago today on 4 March 1916 at the Battle of Verdun, despite an order to withdraw him as a prominent artist. With his love of horses, he appropriately signed-up as a cavalryman and also developed artist-inspired Pointillist painted camouflage for German artillery.

It was a First World War that he oddly believed in despite his art being proscribed as an entarteter Künstler, or “degenerate artist“, during the Nazi era, a quarter of a century after his death. That led to the removal of some 130 paintings from German museums in the late 1930s, some of which were only rediscovered in 2011 in the Cornelius Gurlitt art horde.

Franz Marc, 1910
Franz Marc, 1910

“Serious art has been the work of individual artists whose art has had nothing to do with style because they were not in the least connected with the style or the needs of the masses. Their work arose rather in defiance of their times.” – Franz Marc

Marc painted and drew well over 500 oil paintings, drawings and watercolours, as well as being a woodcut and lithographic printmaker, and whose works now appear on postcards everywhere. Whilst his father Wilhelm Marc was a professional landscape painter he was influenced by studies in Munich and Paris, and inspired by Vincent van Gogh and Expressionism.

Friendship with Wassily Kandinsky

The Last Judgement, Kandinsky, 1912
Kandinsky, “The Last Judgement”, 1912

He counted Russian-born artist Wassily Kandinsky as a friend and co-founder of the art collective Der Blaue Reiter, 1911-14.

The Blue Rider” comprised artists formed out of tensions with NKVM, also founded by Kandinsky in 1909, and the rejection of Kandinsky’s “Last Judgement” painting. Although “The Blue Rider” was a 1903 painting by Kandinsky he later suggested the movement’s name was derived from his love of riders and Marc’s enthusiasm for horses, and their shared love of the colour blue. The group folded with the deaths of  Marc and fellow artist August Macke in World War I and the return of Russian-born members to their home country.

The First Abstract Art Painting

Hilma af Klint, Chaos, 1906
Hilma af Klint: A Pioneer of Abstraction V – “Primordial Chaos”, painted 1906-07. From an exhibition at Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Although Kandinsky is often credited with creating the first abstract artwork in 1910, Tate‘s 2013 retrospective and The Serpentine Gallery‘s current exhibition (3 March-15 May) of Swedish artist Hilma af Klint (1862–1944) would suggest otherwise.

She, yes – a female artist for Sweden was ahead of other nations in allowing women to study art and paint alongside men, was producing abstract paintings from 1906. Curator, Iris Müller-Westermann, describes Af Klint as an “outsider”, a “disturbing artist” who could “rewrite art history”.

Art, Nature, Spirituality & Cats!

Hilma Af Klint’s love of animals, plants, and their science, forged a bond between her art and the the natural world, and an evolution from traditional landscape to abstract art. Her non-traditional ‘occult’ spirituality also inspired her work.

“Today we are searching for things in nature that are hidden behind the veil of appearance… We look for and paint this inner, spiritual side of nature.” – Franz Marc

Franz Marc was also engaged by animals and wild colours that reflected inner emotion and spirituality not the natural world as seen on the surface. Thus his trademark blue horses, a red horse, yellow cow or even a purple hare, might be represented, though many of his earlier painted cats bore more naturalistic colours:

 Increasingly abstract cats in the art of Franz Marc, 1909-1913
Increasingly abstract cats in the art of Franz Marc, 1909-1913

Whilst not as obsessed and pursued by colour as perhaps Monet, nonetheless he imbued his use of colour with meaning and metaphor:

“Blue is the male principle, stern and spiritual. Yellow the female principle, gentle, cheerful and sensual. Red is matter, brutal and heavy and always the colour which must be fought and vanquished by the other two.” – Franz Marc

He was looking for the “inner truth of things” and it was a quest that took him back to nature:

“Marc found this nature-oriented quest for spiritual redemption inspiring. His vision of nature was pantheistic; he believed that animals possessed a certain godliness that men had long since lost. “People with their lack of piety, especially men, never touched my true feelings,” he wrote in 1915. “But animals with their virginal sense of life awakened all that was good in me.” By 1907 he devoted himself almost exclusively to the representation of animals in nature.” – Guggenheim

Marc had planned to train as a theologian but instead went into art and married artists, twice. His artistic depictions of the beauty and innocence of animals were painted against a contrasting backdrop of the years leading up to the First World War, a war that cut short his life and art career at just 36 years old.

Selection of Franz Marc paintings
Selection of Franz Marc paintings (click for more)

 

Porphyrophilia – Purple Passion, What about Pink & Blue?

Porphyrophilia – Purple Passion

Why purple? I grew up mostly being dressed in navy blue by my mother – it was her favourite colour, yet also was not blue for boys, and I was being raised one? After a school non-uniform day dressed by my mum in stripy tee-shirt resulted in a severe ribbing I was keen to wear mostly black without any Goth pretensions for the next 25 years. It was slimming after all, but at 9 stone that was not the reason. Instead, I feared that if I ever wore colour, particularly anything pink, purple or pastel, I would be outed as feminine or queer. Funny that my father’s favourite shirts were pink!

Keep Calm and be PurpleAfter coming out I went through a whole spectrum of colour, feeling gloriously liberated, I wore browns and golds, pinks and pastels, finally settling on purple as my colour of choice. I love its combination of pink and blue, rich depth and royal roots. I could mix it with turquoise and teal which had become my favourite blues and with hot fuchsia pink which had replaced all the other pink shades in my world.

Wearing and carrying purple so much led me being known as “purple Katy”, as opposed to the illustrator Purple Ronnie!

My love of purple, and indeed now all colours except perhaps orange and navy blue, led to me organising my Pinterest  boards by colour, suiting the arrangement of my colour coded house too. One is, of course, dedicated to Porphyrophiliac purple love.

Purple shades

What about Pink & Blue?

Historically, pink and blue rather than being gendered as we annoyingly still see them now, were, if anything, reversed.  Pink used to be masculine, full blooded, halfway to red. Blue, was effeminate, soft, sky and gentle. Victorian children might be dressed accordingly or wear ribbons in their long hair, pink for boys, blue for girls.

Back in the 1900s, the Women’s Journal explained it thus: “That pink being a more decided and stronger colour, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” DressMaker magazine agreed. “The preferred colour to dress young boys in is pink. Blue is reserved for girls as it is considered paler, and the more dainty of the two colours, and pink is thought to be stronger (akin to red).” Even in 1925, in the Great Gatsby novel, a man in a pink suit meant simply that he might not be a member of the intellectual elite rather than that he was effeminate.

Don’t erase the rainbow and make it just about pink or blue,
Boy or girl. We are every shade, any of a hundred hue.

We shouldn’t have to choose soft or hard, pink or blue,
Girl or guy. It’s about just being me and simply you.

Caucasian boys are all pink and girls at Oxford – blue,
What matters is not what we wear but being true.

Lighten up, and see through the prism not only red and blue,
But yellow and green, sat in between, violet too.

Orange came later, and indigo joined right after blue,
But pink never made it or broke through.

Have you ever stopped to think, that in light, pink is part blue,
Mixed with red, and no wavelength of its own to view.

Toys, clothes, gender – If you are stuck on pink or blue,
Isn’t it about time to change your world-view?

Pink or Blue? Just be you! Katy J Went ©2014