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Franz Marc

German, 1880–1916

Die Wölfe (Balkankrieg) [The Wolves (Balkan War)], 1913

Oil on canvas
27 7/8 x 55 inches (70.8 x 139.7 cm)
Charles Clifton, James G. Forsyth, and Charles W. Goodyear Funds, 1951

Early in his career, Franz Marc created graceful and lyrical horses, cows, and deer living in harmony with beautiful landscapes painted in bright, pure colors and filled with light. By 1913, however, his art changed as he sensed the growing danger of world events. The Wolves (Balkan War) is a personal allegory of the 1912–13 war that ultimately led to World War I. Wolves replace the earlier, peaceful animals: three approach from the right, while a fourth turns to face them. The wolf in the middle ground is either asleep or dead, and the one in the distance looks menacingly beyond the edge of the painting to something we cannot see.

The landscape, created with diagonal lines, harsh angles, and a dark and dramatic color scheme, is also in turmoil. Green flames burn in the foreground and purple clouds of smoke, perhaps from explosions, are seen in the distance. The only symbol of beauty and peace—the pink flowers in the lower right-hand corner—are dying.

Marc himself was called to World War I and sent to the front, where the great loss of life, both human and animal, hurt him greatly. He was killed at Verdun, France, in 1916.


Related Lesson Plan

If You Could Talk to the Animals (For Grades 3–6)


Related Activities

Activities for Families (PDF)


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