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June 24, 2020

Mid-Morning Art Thread [Kris]

Marc Cats.jpg

Cats
Franz Marc

Franz Marc began his career in the Munich Art Academy but quickly became disenchanted by the strict natural realism it demanded. He also disliked the emphasis on the human form. During his life, he would be inspired by the Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, Fauves, and finally the Cubists. He would found the short-lived Blue Rider Group with Wassily Kandinsky, one of two main branches of German Expressionism.

In this work, those early influences are on display. He was a fan of Van Gogh especially, and liked the chromatic freedom of the Fauves. Also during this phase, Marc believed in the spiritual harmony of nature. He believed animals represented the most pure, most beautiful state of life. Humanity was too corrupt, too degenerate. As his career developed, the human form would be represented less and less, until it was eliminated completely.

In “Cats,” he uses line, form, and color to represent his ideas of Nature in Harmony. Starting with the landscape, Marc paints a tightly cropped section of a dirt path lined with grass and flowers. The plants are painted using thick, heavy brush strokes, similar to Van Gogh’s style. Each blade of grass or leaf is one deliberate stroke each. But they aren’t straight, perfect verticals though, they curve and sway in different directions. This gives them energy and life. As I watch the flowers grow in my garden, I can see the leaves and plants growing willy-nilly. They aren’t perfect specimens. It’s interesting to look at, and for me, it’s the same here. It makes the painting real and alive. It breathes. Because the brushstrokes are so visible, I can also “see” Marc painting it. I can easily envision his hand darting back and forth between the canvas and the palette, slapping on the thick pigments. This also adds life.

With the cats, the vibrant life force is different—they’re asleep. Marc paints them curled up. The curvy lines of the plants are repeated in the curved outline of the cats, but while the plants curl upwards, the animals curl sideways. These contrasting lines create a soft, pleasing conflict that gives the work a quiet charm. It is a natural conflict that appears everywhere in nature. It is not the stressful, man-made conflicts, including The One looming in the future, that Marc is trying to reject.

It is in the texture of the fur that Marc unites the plants with the animals. The brushstrokes in the fur are similar to the brushstrokes used for the grass. The fur follows the natural anatomy of the animals and results in lines that flow diagonally, especially in the red cat. Diagonal lines combine verticals and horizontals and can sometimes represent a balance of opposites. They are also active lines (verticals and horizontals are static). So, where the cats themselves are asleep, a life force still flows over and through them, connecting them to the landscape.

There’s a heat to this painting. Warm colors, reds and yellows, dominate. The center of the work is taken up by the red cat, the red-striped cloth, and the red-orange-tan pathway. On the edges, even the green grasses are a yellow/green. There is no white and very little black in this work. This heat also gives the work life. I feel the heat of the sun on this warm day, and the cats behaving like cats by laying in the light to warm themselves. The only real cool-ness is in the blue-gray of the other cat. Because its coloring is so anti-palettic (is that even a word?), to me, it stands out more. The red cat looks like a cat—we see his face, feet, toe pads, tail—everything that says “cat.” There’s no challenge there. The gray cat is a lump of color, but because its coloring is so different, my eye examines this shape more, and I see it more.

Soon after this work was finished, Marc would co-found the Blue Rider, but that group didn’t last very long. The political state of Europe was deteriorating fast, deeply affecting Marc. He became disillusioned about everything. He soon believed animals too were corrupt, like humans, and his pictures became more violent and distorted. He enthusiastically enlisted in the army at the outbreak of World War I but lost faith in it very quickly. He was killed in the Battle of Verdun in 1916.


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posted by Open Blogger at 09:30 AM

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