The way the Third Reich denounced Artist Franz Marc would have you think he made dirty pictures, but all this German Expressionist did was paint Animals in different colors – not only horses in green or blue but also cows in yellow and bulls and deer in red. Maybe it was what his imagery supposed that so upset Nazis. “The Fate of the Animals, wildlife,” tells the story. Made of spiked crosscutting fragments, it infers the ruination of nature. In a Simi wildlife in “Animal Destinies” suggests that the human animal is skirting disaster. And the decomposing land in “Deer in the Forest” implies that the animals know what’s happening.

Missing Picture

What was happening: in 1936 Hitler deputy Hermann Goring pronounced Marc’s work “degenerate” and confiscated it all, including a painting titled “The Tower of Blue Horses,” which hasn’t been seen since. Scattered reports of sightings over the years prompted Haus am Waldsee, a celebrated exhibit hall in Berlin, to mount the current show of painters influenced by Marc, “Contemporary Artists in Search of a Lost Masterpiece,” which asks art lovers to be on the lookout for the missing painting. Exhibit curator Katja Blomberg thinks the lost picture was taken by the Russians. But a second curator, Michael Hering, offered another scenario: “It is in a cellar or an attic in Germany”.

What's the beef?

The odd thing about the Third Reich’s reaction to “The Tower of Blue Horses” is that the painting isn’t as apparent a regret over man’s disregard for nature as, say, “Fate of the Animals.” There is no sign of spiked crisscrossing fragments or frantic animals howling in fear at a forest in flames. This is not to say the image is innocent.

Stacking blue horses one on top of the other crowds them and makes the point that they may be suffocating. Did the Nazis, thinking of the cattle-cars they stuffed Jews into, take Marc’s image personally?

All about Eva

Marc appreciated the spirit of animal\s and was probably puzzled by the Third Reich’s rejection. Long before the war, in 1912, he wrote, “Do people seriously believe that we artists do not take our form from nature, do not wrest it from nature, just like every artist that has ever lived?” Clearly you couldn’t change Marc no matter how many times you called him degenerate.

Fellow painter Wassily Kandinsky talked about how the naturalness of Marc’s manner corresponded to the natural surrounds, including his dog white sheep dog Russi. “The Marc-Russi relationship was just one example of Marc’s profound organic relationship with the entire animal world.” One wonders why the Fuhrer didn’t get that. After all, he also had a dog he loved, a German shepherd he called Blondi and allowed in his bed, which didn’t make his wife Eva Braun happy. She was known for kicking the pet under their dining table. Did that tension in Hitler’s marriage turn him from Marc’s animal pictures and end up killing Blondie – supposedly to protect her from the invading Russians?