Marc had begun his career as a naturalist, poring over the surrounding Bavarian landscape, but an introduction to Kandinsky’s color theories transformed his quest into a search for the sublime. Colors came to embody emotional and spiritual states and animals were invested as symbols of purity. An encounter with cubism, futurism, and the work of Robert Delaunay in Paris in 1912 galvanized Marc toward an increasing simplification of line and form and a dismantlement of figures and pictorial space.
A current exhibition at Galerie Thomas in Munich offers a rare glimpse of the artist’s woodcuts. Marc had created at least 60 prints during his lifetime, approximately 21 of which were woodcuts. The prints on view at Galerie Thomas have a particularly prized provenance: they come from a portfolio published in 1984 by Otto Strangl (a Munich gallerist and the executor of Marc’s estate) using the artist’s original wood stocks from 1911–1914. The show features several eminent examples from this group, among them Reitschule nach Ridinger (1913/1984), based on a copperplate print after Johann Elias Ridinger, and Löwenjagd nach Delacroix (1913/1984), after the French Romantic master Eugène Delacroix. Both woodcuts converge on Marc’s beloved theme of horses, here captured mid-fray, in full magnetic and dynamic bloom.
For Marc, printmaking was an arena for formal exploration. His woodcuts are deeply indebted to Japanese antecedents and those of other radical contemporaries like Edvard Munch and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Although some were later hand-painted, the emptying out of color permitted Marc to concentrate on line and contour and to experiment with spatial relationships. As small, intimate works, they are just about as close as we can come to capturing Marc’s elusive wild horses.
“Franz Marc: Gemälde - Werke auf Papier - Skulpturen” is on view at Galerie Thomas, Munich, Nov. 21 2014–Jan. 24, 2015.