Blue Horses

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Blue Horses
Die Grossen Blauen Pferde (The Large Blue Horses)
ArtistFranz Marc
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions105.7 cm × 181.2 cm (​41 58 in × ​71 516 in)
LocationWalker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
OwnerWalker Art Center, Gift of the T.B. Walker Foundation and the Gilbert M. Walker Memorial Fund, 1942.1

Blue Horses or Die grossen blauen Pferde (The Large Blue Horses) is a 1911 painting by German painter and printmaker Franz Marc (1880–1916)


In 1910, Marc was a founding member of Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), and was the center of a circle of German and Russian expatriate artists with August Macke, Wassily Kandinsky and several others whose works were seminal to the development of German Expressionism.


This work, which represents three vividly coloured blue horses looking down in front of a landscape of rolling red hills, is characterized by its bright primary colors and a portrayal that simplicity, and a profound sense of emotion. According to the 'Encyclopædia Britannica', "the powerfully simplified and rounded outlines of the horses are echoed in the rhythms of the landscape background, uniting both animals and setting into a vigorous and harmonious organic whole.".[1] It is thought that the curved lines used to depict the subject are to emphasize "a sense of harmony, peace, and balance" in a spiritually-pure animal world and that by viewing human beings are allowed to join this harmony.[2] Marc gave an emotional or psychological meaning or purpose to the colors he used in his work: blue was used for masculinity and spirituality, yellow represented feminine joy, and red encased the sound of violence and of base matter. Marc used blue throughout his career to represent spirituality and his use of vivid color is thought to have been an attempt to eschew the material world to evoke a spiritual or transcendental essence.[3][4][5] This oil painting on canvas measures 41.625 inches by 71.3125 inches (unframed) and is unsigned.

This is one of Marc's earliest major works depicting animals and the more important of his series of portraits of horses in various colors. It is often thought that Marc thought animals to be more pure and more beautiful than man and represented a more pantheistic understanding of the divine or of spirituality.[6]

Swiss painter Jean Bloé Niestlé (1884–1942) urged Marc to "capture the essence of the animal."[7] According to art historian Gabi La Cava, Marc depicts "the feeling that is evoked by the subject matter is most important"—more so that zoological accuracy.[8]


In 1942, Blue Horses was purchased by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota through The T. B. Walker Foundation and its Gilbert M. Walker Memorial Fund. This was the first major modernist work to enter the collection. [9]

Other notable animal paintings by Franz Marc[edit]

  • Gelbe Kuh (Yellow Cow) (1911)
  • Die Kleinen Blauen Pferde (The Small Blue Horses)
  • Zwei Katzen, Blau und Gelb (Two Cats, Blue and Yellow) 1911
  • Blaues Pferdchen (Little Blue Horse) 1912
  • Der Turm der Blauen Pferde (The Tower of Blue Horses) (1913), missing since 1945.
  • Die Kleinen Gelben Pferde (The Little Yellow Horses)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Blue Horses". Encyclopædia Britannica 2012. Web. (retrieved 18 June 2012)
  2. ^ La Cava, Gabi. Review Article: The Expressionist Animal Painter Franz Marc (April 2004)
  3. ^ Macke, Wolfgang (ed.) Briefwechsel: August Macke/Franz Marc. (Cologne: DuMont-Schauberg, 1964), 25-28; Partsch, Susanna. Franz Marc 1880-1916. (Cologne: Taschen, 1991), 26.
  4. ^ La Cava, Gabi. Review Article: The Expressionist Animal Painter Franz Marc (April 2004)
  5. ^ Compare this to Read, Herbert. A Concise History of Modern Painting. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974 ed.) at 193, describing Marc's associate and fellow Blue Reiter member Kandinsky's work of this time as "Lines fluctuate and represent not only movement, but purpose and growth. Colours are associative not only in the sense that they express human emotion (joy or sadness, etc.) but also in that they signify emotive aspects of our external environment-yellow is earthy, blue is heavenly; yellow is brash and importunate, and upsets people, blue is pure and infinite, suggestive of infinite peace."
  6. ^ Wankheit, Klaus and Steffen, Uwe. Briefe aus dem Feld. (Munich: Piper, 1986), 64; Partsch, Susanna. Franz Marc 1880-1916. (Cologne: Taschen, 1991), 38-39; Piper, Reinhard "Franz Marc: On the animal in art" in Das Tier in der Kunst. (Munich: Piper, 1922) included in Partsch, op.cit.
  7. ^ Partsch, Susanna. Franz Marc 1880-1916. (Cologne: Taschen, 1991), 9.
  8. ^ La Cava, Gabi. Review Article: The Expressionist Animal Painter Franz Marc (April 2004)
  9. ^ Die Grossen Blauen Pferde (retrieved 18/06/2011) Archived 21 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]