Alois W. Schardt, Jr, McLean, Virginia (by descent from the above)
Max Wydler, Zurich
Private Collection, Germany (acquired from the above in 1968)
Thence by descent to the present owner
Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Franz Marc. Die Retrospektive, 2005-06, no. 32, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Bonn, Kunstmuseum & Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau, August Macke und Franz Marc: Eine Künstlerfreundschaft, 2014-15, no. 37, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Alois J. Schardt, Franz Marc, Berlin, 1936, no. I-1909-10, listed p. 162 (as 'destroyed')
Klaus Lankheit, Franz Marc. Katalog der Werke, Cologne, 1970, no. 93, illustrated p. 31
Frederick S. Levine, The Apocalyptic Vision. The Art of Franz Marc as German Expressionism, New York, 1979, no. 12, illustrated p. 46 (with incorrect measurements)
Franz Marc. Kräfte der Natur. Werke 1912-1915 (exhibition catalogue), Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst, Munich & Westfälisches Landesmuseum, Münster, 1993-94, fig. 11, illustrated p. 89
Annegret Hoberg & Isabelle Jansen, Franz Marc: The Complete Works, London, 2004, vol. I, no. 88, illustrated in colour p. 108
in a letter to Maria Franck, 18th September 1909
Best known for his depictions of animals executed during the period of his involvement with Der Blaue Reiter, Franz Marc’s artistic menagerie included wonderfully colourful dogs, pigs, deer and cows. But the most significant in his repertoire were his depictions of stallions and mares, grazing or galloping, alone or in groups, in rhythmically painted landscapes. Marc believed that the horse, with its flowing mane and strong, sinuous physicality, symbolised the ideal beauty of nature. In 1911, Marc and Kandinsky chose this majestic animal for the cover of Der Blaue Reiter Almanach, published early the following year.
Marc’s first major composition of the horse dates from 1908 and depicts a placid-looking herd in a meadow of Lenggries, a village near the Austrian border. Over the following years Marc’s compositions of horses became distinctly more abstract, energised and mystical in appearance. ‘I am trying to enhance my sensibility for the organic rhythm that I feel is in all things,’ he wrote of his art in 1911 (quoted in Peter Selz, German Expressionist Painting, Los Angeles, 1957, p. 201). In Grosse Landschaft I Marc puts these theories into practice. Frederick S. Levine wrote about the present work: ‘In the Large Landscape, four horses are again bound together through the linear rendition of their bodies, and in this case the very landscape itself is distorted in order to conform to the contour of the animals’ forms. We find this lucidity in each of these paintings, paintings in which the artist has given expression to his belief in a “flow” within nature that courses and vibrates and pulsates among all living things’ (F. S. Levine, op. cit., pp. 44 & 46).
The four animals grouped in the lower right of the composition appear to be in harmony with the undulating rhythm of the surrounding landscape. Marc explored this particular grouping of the horses in several paintings and drawings, including a tempera that was destroyed in a fire in 1945 (fig. 2). The present work was executed in the village of Sinderlsdorf near Murnau, where Marc and Maria Franck – his companion and future wife – stayed from May until October 1909 (fig. 1). Christian von Holst wrote: ‘To assist Marc with his work on [Grosse Landschaft I], the Sindelsdorf master carpenter Josef Niggl, who owned the village house that Marc rented, built a simple shack in the pasture so that the large canvas did not have to be carried back and forth’ (C. von Holst in Franz Marc: Horses/Pferde (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 57).
Although Der Blaue Reiter group would not be formed until 1911, two years after Marc painted the present composition, Grosse Landschaft I heralds the artist’s bold palette and his rejection of naturalistic use of colour, an approach that was to intensify over the following years (fig. 3). Writing about the present work, von Holst states that ‘color is now clearly beginning to depart from the naturalistic and to attain greater autonomy. In the painting of 1909 the bodies of the horses are already red in tone […]. Marc can here be seen taking a further step in the direction of the bolder solutions he was to essay in the future’ (ibid., pp. 57-58).
Marc died during the First World War, and the surviving artists, including Kandinsky and Paul Klee, later acknowledged their debt to the spiritually based, ‘primitive’ aesthetic that Marc had pioneered. In an article published in 1936, Kandinsky remembered Marc as an artist who ‘had a direct, intimate relationship with nature like a mountaineer or even an animal. […] Everything in nature attracted [Marc], but above all, the animals. Here there was a reciprocal contact between the artist and his ‘models,’ and this is why Marc could enter into the lives of animals; it was their life that gave him his inspiration. […] What attracted him was the great organic whole, that is to say, nature in general. Here lies the key to the original, individual world Marc created and which others have tried to re-create, but without success’ (W. Kandinsky, Cahiers d’Art, nos. 5-10, Paris, 1936, reprinted in English in Kandinsky, Franz Marc, August Macke, Drawings and Watercolors (exhibition catalogue), Hutton-Hutschnecker Gallery, New York, 1969, p. VIII).
The first recorded owner of the present work was the art historian Dr Alois J. Schardt, who was married to Franz Marc’s widow, Maria Marc (née Franck). Schardt and his wife compiled the monograph on Marc’s work, which was published in 1936. From 1926 Schardt was the director of the Städtisches Museum Moritzburg in Halle, for which he helped build an important collection of modern art. He was later appointed director of the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, however in 1939 he left Germany and moved with his family to Los Angeles, settling in America for the rest of his life. Grosse Landschaft I remained in Schardt’s family after his death in 1955, and has been in the family of the current owner since 1968.
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