Deer in the Forest 1. 1913 – Franz Marc
FRANZ MARC – DEER IN THE FOREST 1. – 1913 – oil on canvas.
Franz Marc abstracted his subject of deer in the forest, playing with colour, shapes and symbols to create an image which represented the ‘harmonious co-existence of all living creatures.’ Despite the abstract nature of the composition the subject is still recognisable by the viewer, both with or without the title.
He used line cleverly – the contour lines around the heads and bodies of the deer, and the head and wings of the bird – flowing curvilinear lines for the branches of the trees, which also act as directional lines leading the eyes of the viewer around the composition, down to the deer, across to the bird, back to the central tree, which is the Tree of Life. The edges formed by the trees against the background form another type of line.
He used organic shapes to define the subject, creating them with line, colour and texture on the trees on the far left and right. The deer on the lower left have an underlying triangular shape, while the larger triangular shapes are formed from the central lower deer, to the right mid-level deer, then down to the lower right corner; and from the lower left deer, to the leaf, then to the mid-level right deer. The background is comprised of geometric shapes, created mainly by colour, and the lines where they abut.
While he used colour descriptively – the fawn of the deer, the grey/white of the trees, the red of the sunset, the deep blue of the sky, top right, to depict the onset of night, the warm grey and blue of the bird – he also used the colours for the forest in the background expressively, working with analogous greens, blues and yellows subtly, yet occasionally touching this area with the contrasting red. He had, of course, used red boldly as a focal point in the colour-play of the composition.
I feel that this composition is partly closed, by the use of the design stops in the trees on the left and right – yet partly open, as these trees go beyond the lower and upper edges of the canvas, and the ground along the base of the composition is not a visual barrier. I believe the composition has several focal points – the colour red, already mentioned; the group of deer lower left; the dark green leaf on the central tree; and to a lesser extent the white area behind the same tree; and the deer on the right.
The composition is balanced asymetrically, and almost approximately, with the axis line just to the left of the central tree. It is balanced both colourwise, and in areas of interest – the busy area of the deer balancing the busy area of the curly branches. The intensity of the red, dark blue and yellow areas is balanced by the areas of less intensity of the deer and ground. The values of the dark and the soft/light in these same areas is also balanced.
A feeling of movement is created by the diagonal line of the bird, while the trees appear static. The deer are both. The right deer appears to be turning back towards the other group – its body and head are on the diagonal. The upper two deer in the main group also seem to have movement by their angularity, but the lower deer appear calm by their curved shapes and near horizontal lines.
The composition is loaded with symbolism – the Tree of Life in the centre, with love-knots in its branches to encompass the other forest trees, providing shelter for the birds and the beasts. The descending night, the red-yellow glow, symbolically adds further protection for the deer, which he sees as symbolising virginity and innocence. The single green leaf on the Tree of Life symbolises new growth and hope, anticipation of life to come. The bird appears to be an owl, symbolising wisdom flying in to settle in the Tree of Life. I can also see what I believe is the symbol for Man – the circle at the top of the green cylinder, lower right, seems to have an arrow leading out and up towards the deer on the right. This, to me, represents Man as being a part of nature with the capabilities of co-existing in harmony with his environment. This message is still valid today.
He has created a feeling of shallow space by overlapping the various components – bird over left tree, left and right trees over deer, deer over central tree, and that tree in front of diagonal lines in the red area which are suggestive of foliage. Also, by the use of the dominant red area he has created a sense of that warmth coming forward, compressing the space in front of it. The viewer is shown an image which appears to end just beyond the Tree of Life.
This is a delightful painting. As the title suggests, Marc created further forest paintings, abstracting the images more intensely and vividly as you will see if you Google his Franz Marc/Paintings.
Deer in the Forest II ; Roe Deer in the Forest;
Deer in the Flower Garden
PS: I added the smaller pics between the text to make it easier for you to find the artistic elements I describe without contstantly scrolling back.
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C) Jud House 2/09/2016
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