Dog lying in the snow, ca. 1911
As a young man, Franz Marc was very interested in philosophy and theology. He studied art, but remained constantly in search of a “bridge to the spiritual world”. His paintings of animals are also to be understood in this context. For Marc, animals were closer to God than human beings. He considered them more primal, purer in soul and therefore more beautiful. What we see here is accordingly not just a dog lying in the snow, but a creature of God in harmony with nature. The idiosyncratic colours also adhere to certain theoretical considerations. When Marc executed this painting, he experimented with prismatic refractions of light and complementary colours, and postulated a colour theory of his own: “Blue is the male principle, austere and intellectual. Yellow is the female principle, gentle, buoyant and sensual…” What appeared to many of his contemporaries as “wild” had in fact emerged from a very earnest preoccupation with the underlying themes.
This work also reflects the artist’s exploration of the Cubist style being practised at the time by some of his colleagues. The dog, for example, is composed in part of angular, two-dimensional surfaces, though Marc left the natural contours and uniform perspective intact. This is one of the first paintings in which he found his way to the form of expression now world-famous in connection with the circle around “Der Blaue Reiter”.