One of the leading Expressionist artists, Franz Marc was born in what used to be the capital of the Kingdom of Bavaria, Munich, in 1880. Marc followed in his father’s footsteps, Wilhelm Marc, as he was a landscape artist, while his mother, named Sophie, was a religious housewife, following the faith of Calvinism; a Reformed Protestantism. Possibly because of his mother’s influence, Marc wished to study theology during his teens but ended up enrolling at Munich University to study art instead. In 1900, after serving the military for a year, Marc changed institutions and began studying at the Academy of Fine Arts. He was twenty years old and was Wilhelm von Diez and Gabriel von Hackl's student. Three years later, Marc visited Paris and came in contact with contemporary artists, as well as seeing many masterpieces in museums where he would copy their work and techniques. Marc was especially drawn to the expressive paintings of the Post-Impressionist Vincent Van Gogh. During this trip, the painter even met with Sarah Bernhardt, a French actress. The whole Parisian experience had a significant impact on the way Marc percieved art, leading him in a new direction and leaving the Academy of Fine Arts.
Marc was married twice and both times with artists; Anna Marie Schnur and Maria Franck. By his twenties, the artist was involved in complicated extramarital relationships. In 1906, the artist traveled to Greece with his brother, Paul, a student of the Byzantine period. They visited Mount Athos and Thessaloniki, and a year later, Marc returned to Paris. Back in Munich, Marc participated in the second edition of the New Artists’ Association, known as Neue Künstlervereinigung, as well as meeting and befriending the fellow Expressionist artist August Macke. Although many Modern artists participated in the Neue Künstlervereinigung, they eventually decided to go against it, and Marc found the opportunity to start the Der Blaue Reiter, meaning The Blue Rider. The German artist joined with Russian emigrants such as Marianne von Werefkin, and the prestigious Wassily Kandinsky, along with other German artists like Macke and Gabriele Münter to create the alternative art movement in 1911. The first exhibit of the Der Blaue Reiter happened in December of the same year and traveled to galleries of Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne, and Hagen.
Modern painting had a great influence on Marc’s work, for example, the work and use of color of the Futurist painter Robert Delaunay inspired him immensely when they met in 1912. The German artist also became fascinated with Cubism, which had a visual impact on his production, like in the paintings Animal Destinies, Foxes, Tiger, Red Deer, and The Large Blue Horses. Not only did Marc create beautiful and colorful paintings, but he also mastered the craft of printmaking, producing woodcut prints and lithographies - a stone printing technique - which allowed a better distribution of his work. By the mature period of his artistic career, Marc had achieved his visual identity; portraying mostly animals in bright colors and expressive brushstrokes. He would mostly work with primary colors and experimented in abstracting forms of animals and nature - an influence from Cubism. By the beginning of the First World War in 1914, Marc was summoned to serve in the German Army, and by 1816 he was using his painting techniques to create military camouflage. The German government found it essential to remove notable artists from combat, but unfortunately, Marc passed away before his region was notified. The artist was struck with a shell fragment in the head on March 1916, while in the Battle of Verdun.