German expressionist painter associated with the Blaue Reiter group of artists.
The son of a Munich painter, Marc became a student at the Munich Academy in 1900. He travelled to Italy and to Paris – the centre of postimpressionism, the influence of which is seen in his early works. From 1907 Marc's paintings most frequently depicted animals, especially horses. In 1910 he met Kandinsky and they formed the Blaue Reiter group, holding an exhibition in 1911 that also included works by August Macke (1887–1914) and Henri Rousseau (1844–1910). The influence of the group on Marc's work is apparent in his increased use of brilliant colour and strong forms, as in Red Horses (1911).
In 1912 his work again altered under the cubist influence of Delaunay. With the use of intermingled shapes and colours, the animals began to merge with the background, in Deer in the Forest (1913–14), for example. Marc, an intensely religious man, portrayed idealized rather than realistic animals, to which he ascribed a spiritual purity lacking in man. He saw his painting as an attempt to reach and interpret the source of reality. Increasingly his work tended towards abstraction. The paintings immediately preceding World War I convey drama and strong emotion, in particular The Fate of the Animals (1913), which presages catastrophe. Marc was called up in 1914 and killed in action near Verdun two years later.