Franz Marc's Weidende Pferde III was painted in Sindelsdorf in the Bavarian countryside, where Marc moved from Munich in the spring of 1910. The most significant productions of his œuvre are his compositions of horses, grazing alone or galloping together in rhythmically executed landscapes. Marc believed that the horse, with its flowing mane and strong, sinuous physicality, symbolised the ideal beauty of nature. In 1911, Marc and Wassily Kandinsky chose this majestic animal for part of the emblem of Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), the avant-garde movement that they founded in Munich. Weidende Pferde III, painted in 1910, is a magnificent painting that already exemplifies the objectives of this new wave of German Expressionism. The rhythmic dynamic postures of the four horses and vibrant colours of the composition evoke the sensation of movement reinforced by the bright greens and yellows of the meadows. The thick impasto application of paint results in a textural smoothness emphasising the flowing motion of the scene.
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. He painted his animals in fantastic shades of blue, red and yellow, claiming that his blue stallions represented contemplativeness and spirituality, while the yellow mares signified energy and sensuality. '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. Not wanting to be misinterpreted as a mere follower of the Fauves, Marc was careful to clarify the aesthetic intentions and spiritual underpinnings of his own 'wild' stylisation. In Der Blaue Reiter Almanac, he wrote that his painting celebrated the divinity of nature and fiercely rejected the values of modernity and the material world. He explained that like the earlier Dresden based group, Die Brücke, the artists associated with Der Blaue Reiter emphasised the distinctly German origins of their paintings: 'In this time of great struggle for a new art we fight like disorganized 'savages' against an old, established power. The battle seems to be unequal, but spiritual matters are never decided by numbers, only by the power of ideas. The dreaded weapons of the 'savages' are their new ideas. New ideas kill better than steel and destroy what was thought to be indestructible' (quoted in Mark Rosenthal, Franz Marc, Munich, 1989, pp. 23-24).
In an article originally published in 1936, Kandinsky remembered his younger colleague 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. Yet he never lost himself in details, never saw the animal as more than one of the element of a whole, and frequently not even a vital one. He constructed his picture like a painter not a storyteller, and therefore he never became an 'animal painter.' 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).
Marc sought to liberate painting from the literal, figurative image of the world in order to reach a symbolic dimension, which unified man with the forces of nature, creating a universal, harmonious unity. As the artist wrote: 'Nature glows in our pictures as in every form of art. Nature is everywhere, in us and outside us; there is only one thing that is not altogether nature, but rather the overcoming and interpreting of nature: art. Art always has been and is in its very essence the boldest departure from nature and 'naturalness'. It is the bridge into the spirit world...the necromancy of human race' (quoted in Peter Selz, German Expressionist Painting, Berkeley, 1974, p. 210).
From the series of Weidende Pferde, the present work is the only one still in private hands. Weidende Pferde I is located in the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, Weidende Pferde II belongs to the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart and Weidende Pferde IV is in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums.
Oil on canvas
Munich, Moderne Galerie Heinrich Thannhauser, Franz Marc - Pierre Girieud, 1911, no. 20 (titled Weidende Pferde)
Munich, Glaspalast, Neue Sezession, Franz Marc, Gedächtnisausstellung, 1916, no. 57 (titled Streitende Pferde)
Hanover, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Franz Marc. Gedächtnisausstellung, 1936, no. 20 (titled Pferde auf der Weide II)
Munich, Haus der Kunst, München und die Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts. Der Blaue Reiter. Der Weg von 1908-1914, 1949, no. 220, illustrated in the catalogue (titled Weidende Pferde, Rote Pferde)
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum & Brussels, Palais voor schone Kunsten, Franz Marc, 1955, no. 7, illustrated in the catalogue (as dating from 1911)
Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Franz Marc, 1963, no. 67 (incorrectly titled Weidende Pferde I)
61 by 92.5cm., 24 by 36 3/8 in.
Alois J. Schardt, Franz Marc, Berlin, 1936, no. I-1910-13, illustrated p. 78 (titled Weidende Pferde II)
Klaus Lankheit (ed.), Franz Marc, Berlin, 1950, illustrated p. 21 (titled Weidende Pferde II)
Klaus Lankheit, Franz Marc - Katalog der Werke, Cologne, 1970, no. 128, illustrated
Klaus Lankheit, Franz Marc. Sein Leben und seine Kunst, Cologne, 1976, mentioned pp. 69-70
Christian von Holst (ed.), Franz Marc. Pferde (exhibition catalogue), Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Stuttgart, 2000, no. 31, illustrated pl. 214; illustrated in colour pl. 59
Annegret Hoberg & Isabelle Jansen, Franz Marc: The Complete Works, London, 2004, vol. I, no. 122, illustrated in colour p. 134
Annegret Hoberg & Helmut Friedel, Franz Marc. Die Retrospektive (exhibition catalogue), Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, 2005, illustrated in colour p. 33
Carl Ferdinand Holzrichter, Barmen (by June-July 1911)
Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, Dusseldorf (acquired from the above in 1924; deaccessioned as 'degenerate art' in January 1937)
(probably) Alex Vömel (acquired from the above in 1937)
Carl Ferdinand Holzrichter, Barmen (probably acquired from the above in 1937)
Carl Neumann, Wuppertal (acquired from the above probably in 1937; until at least 1955)
Wolfgang Wittrock Kunsthandel, Dusseldorf
Acquired from the above by the present owners in March 1990