Archive for February 3rd, 2021

Franz Marc- The Yellow Cow 1911

Traditions are lovely things- to create traditions, that is, not to live off of them… the great shapers do not search for their form in the fogs of the past.

–Franz Marc

I chose today’s quote from German painter Franz Marc (1880-1916) because he was an influence for me early in my career. Not so much in the style or subject matter that he employed but more in attitude. I admired the fact that he created work that stood out and was identifiable as his from across a gallery space.

His work, vision, and voice were his alone, never aspiring to follow the style or schools of others. This is basically what he is pointing towards in the aphorism above– to not toil in the fields planted by earlier artists but to carve out your own space and work it in the way that suits and  best expresses you.

Franz Marc- Large Blue Horses

Franz Marc- Large Blue Horses

He is not downplaying the influences of the past. Early in his career Marc copied the works of other artists from before and contemporary to him. Doing so allowed him to pick and choose the elements in the works of others that meshed with his vision, allowing him to use these found elements to create his own avenue of expression.

He did not want to remain a replicator but wanted instead to be a creator. He wanted to work in a field that he had planted and nurtured. One that was his own.

And that was the attraction for me.

Of course, there was safety and security in remaining in the larger symbolic field with others but it would often be as an anonymous member of a larger group, your furrow always directly compared to the furrow of those alongside you, your harvest always compared to those of others.

Breaking away and heading out was risky. You had to believe that in taking this leap of faith that you would be able to work your little spot in your own way away from others and produce a harvest that is uniquely appetizing to others in some manner. But you might end up toiling in barren soil, creating crops that appealed to no one but yourself. It was scary to think that your field might never expand but you were at least nourishing yourself.

This was the type of thinking that drove my work early on, fueled by looking at the work of Marc and others who veered from the traditions of the past in their times.

Unfortunately, Franz Marc only worked his fields for a relatively short time, dying in WW I at the Battle of Verdun. He was a mere 36 years old. But his crop still lives on, surviving being labeled as degenerate art in the 1930’s by Hitler and the Nazi regime.

It is unique and in his own tradition.

I believe that the lives and careers of artists  like Franz Marc provide valuable lessons for any aspiring artist, even in this world and creative environment that is vastly different than the one that Marc inhabited.

I know it helped me. 

Back trying to take a hiatus. This post ran six years ago but it’s one that I felt deserved another run. Unlike the traditions that sustain and give meaning to our everyday lives, art often occurs when the traditions of art are set aside. I think that is what Marc was talking about here and I believe it is an important thought to keep in mind for those who have their own voice heard.

Back to plowing. Again. Have a good day.

Franz Marc- The Waterfall 1912

Franz Marc- The Waterfall 1912


Franz Marc- Horse and Eagle 1912

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