The Big Blue Horses, 1911, Oil on Canvas, 102 x 160cm, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
I love the German expressionist artists without reservation, but I especially love the little Blue Rider group with its three main troublemakers Macke, Marc, and Kandinsky. The group takes its name from Kandinsky’s famous painting, the importance of which should be the subject of an article (if not a book) all by itself. Kandinsky is, of course, the brightest light shining from that group, but who knows how things might have turned out had Macke and Marc lived? As much as I admire Kandinsky, and that is very much indeed, he does not touch me emotionally as Macke and Marc do. And of all their work, the painting above is my absolute favorite.
Marc did other Blue Horse pictures, but this is the only “Big” Blue Horses, stretching over five feet in length. I cannot explain why I respond so strongly to this image. When I sit and ponder it, I feel myself becoming calm and strong and wistful. It’s every boy’s dream, isn’t it, to ride dark-limned on the horizon, eagles Suzy-Q’ing in the sky above you. This painting elicits in me a sense of brotherhood, of connection with cultures I cannot imagine except that we might bond through our common dream of horses and glory. I adore it, and would gladly build a house big enough to contain it if my pockets were as deep as my dreams.
The Fate of the Animals, 1913, Oil on Canvas, Kunstmuseum.Basel, Switzerland, (no sizes given)
This is his most famous painting, according to some folks, and I do not dispute it. It is a more mature work than the horse picture which experiments with the underlying relationship and resonance of color and meaning. This was painted in a world declining into war, and on the back of the canvas Marc wrote “And all being is flaming agony.”
Roe Deer in theForest, 1914, Oil on Canvas, 100.5 x 160cm
It is not hard to imagine his thoughts when he painted this last one. He knew that he’d been conscripted into the German Army. Like the deer he must take very great care to survive. He was thinking, no doubt, of his friend August Macke who’d entered the army before him and been slaughtered in only the second month of the war. Two years later, during Marc’s tour in the army, the government decided to relieve its great artists from serving in the war. While the papers releasing him from duty were making their way to his unit, he was killed by an enemy shell.
It hardly matters. We’ve probably lost a thousand greater artists to war without ever even knowing it, not to mention doctors, scientists, novelists, composers. As another year ends and once again we find ourselves playing chicken with yet another enemy over the Straits of Hormuz let’s just see if we can go a whole year without starting any more shit with anybody. And maybe, just maybe, something glorious will come of that for a change.
Happy New Year, everybody.