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Expressionism and Nature

For the German Expressionists, nature was an arena for healing and freedom.

Horses Resting (Ruhende Pferde)

Franz Marc
(German, 1880–1916)

1911. Woodcut, composition: 6 5/8 x 9 1/16" (16.8 x 23 cm); sheet: 11 1/4 x 15 3/4" (28.6 x 40 cm)

In this woodcut, four horses nestle together to form a harmonious composition. The shape of each animal fits into the other, like pieces in a puzzle. A member of Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), Franz Marc made many images of animals as symbols of spiritual renewal, rebirth, and inner peace. The cool green and blue hues express the artist’s vision of a spiritual connection to nature: “I am trying to heighten my feeling for the organic rhythm in all things, trying to establish a pantheistic contact with the tremor and flow of blood in nature, in animals, in the air—trying to make it all into a picture….”1

Richard Friedenthal, editor, Letters of the Great Artists, "Letter to the publisher Reinhard Piper, 1908," (London: Thames and Hudson, 1963), 207

A particular gradation of color; a shade or tint.

A printmaking technique that involves printing an image from a carved plank of wood. The image is cut into the wood using tools such as chisels, gouges, and knives. Raised areas of the image are inked and printed, while cut away or recessed areas do not receive ink and appear blank on the printed paper. Woodcuts can be printed on a press or by hand, using a spoon or similar tool to rub the back of the paper.

Having characteristics of a biological entity, or organism, or developing in the manner of a living thing.

Formed in 1911 in Munich as an association of painters and an exhibiting society led by Vasily Kandinsky and Franz Marc. Using a visual vocabulary of abstract forms and prismatic colors, Blaue Reiter artists explored the spiritual values of art as a counter to [what they saw as] the corruption and materialism of their age. The name, meaning “blue rider,” refers to a key motif in Kandinsky’s work: the horse and rider. The group, which published an influential almanac by the same name, dissolved with the onset of World War I.

The arrangement of the individual elements within a work of art so as to form a unified whole; also used to refer to a work of art, music, or literature, or its structure or organization.