Franz Marc the Little Mountain Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

His use of expressionism is evident in the ways that he used his interior consciousness to realize his artistic objective. The Little Mountain Goats is a dizzying smear of motion and color. Its kinesthetic sensibility and paler color palate recalls Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase more than any of Gauguin's works, suggesting a new influence upon Marc's style. The triangular features of the goats, the geometric primary colors, particularly the unnatural yet earthy tones of the reds and pinks, along with the whites and greens clearly show an evolution in his philosophy, which must be also partially ascribed to the Fauves. Fauvist works used stirring and unusual colors and bold brushstrokes and lack the clearer and more defined lines of Gauguin. Rather appropriately, given Marc's frequent subject matter, the word 'Fauve' in French means 'wild beast.'

Over the course of his career, Marc became personally acquainted with both Henri Matisse and Wassily Kandinsky, the latter of whom was one of the founders of the Neue Kunstlervereinigung Munchen (NKVM: New Artists' Association of Munich), which offered cutting-edge artists an alternative to established exhibition venues in Germany (Neue Kunstlervereinigung Munchen, 2009, Ketterer Kunst). Marc defended the Neue Kunstlervereinigung Munchen exhibition in print when it was attacked by more traditional artists, but he later split with the movement. By this time "he had formed his own set of artistic principles, which were a mixture of Romanticism, Expressionism and Symbolism: In December 1910 he wrote a famous letter to [August] Macke, assigning emotional values to colors:

Blue is the male principle, astringent and spiritual. Yellow is the female principle, gentle, gay and spiritual. Red is matter, brutal and heavy and always the color to be opposed and overcome by the other two" (Lucie-Smith 1999, p.73). The Little Mountain Goats is a collage of all of these colors -- the gentle yellow in the foreground, blue in the background, with swaths of red at war with the other shades. These competing colors further add to the sense of motion in the work, making the smears of the brush look like the dancing of goats upon a mountain.

In 1911 Marc "found himself ready to embark on the series of paintings of animals which have since been the cornerstone of his reputation. And in December, after a split in the Neue Kuenstlervereinigung, organized the first Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) exhibition…In 1913 he took an important role in selecting and hanging Der Sturm's First Autumn Salon in Berlin, and noted how many of the exhibitors were veering towards abstraction…By the spring Of 1914 Marc's own work had become virtually abstract," until his life was cut short by the war (Lucie-Smith 1999, p.73). Up to his death, Marc continued to write treatises upon the philosophy of art. By the time he composed The Little Mountain Goats, his work had become less about beauty and color alone and had been grounded in a deeper fascination with the purpose of arts.

The Chagall-like pastels, the abstraction, and the merging of colors in a work that is at once compelling, but has no clear focal point in The Little Mountain Goats hints at 'what might have been,' had Marc lived. Different blurred faces of goats haunt the work, but the goats are not assembled realistically at a fixed point in space and time on the mountain, as was the case with Dog in the Snow. The three contrasting colors of red, yellow, and blue dominate in the form of three bold lines in the front, obscuring an easy view of the gazer. It is unclear if the real focus of the work is the mountain or the goats or on the motion of the goats. The swathes of color show the influence of both Futurism and Cubism, but are still grounded in some evident sense of reality -- the goats are still perceptible. Even Marc's final works have a vestige of accessibility often not present in Modern art. This has made him a popular, as well as an influential artist.


Lucie-Smith, Edward. (1999). Lives of the Great 20th-Century Artists.2nd edition.

London: Thames & Hudson. Except accessed November 10, 2009 at

Neue Kunstlervereinigung Munchen. (2009).…

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