Franz Moriz Wilhelm Marc was a founding member of the German Expressionist group known as Der Blauer Reiter (The Blue Rider). Son of a landscape painter, he began studying at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich under the guidance of Gabriel von Hackl and Wilhelm von Dietz in 1900. In 1903 and 1907 he travelled to Paris, where he became acquainted with Impressionism first hand and was particularly drawn by the work of Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin. In 1906 he visited Mount Athos in Greece with his brother Paul. Later, together with his future wife, the artist Maria Franck, he travelled to Lenggries, where he became intensely interested in making sketches of animals, which he considered worthier subjects than humans and which gradually became the favourite theme of his compositions. In 1910Marc met August Macke, who became a close friend and introduced him to Bernhard Koehler, the future patron of both artists. Not long afterwards he also met the members of the Munich Neue Künstlervereinigung, among them Wassily Kandinsky, Alexej von Jawlensky and Gabriele Münter, and soon joined the group. Out of all of them, Marc felt a particular affinity with Kandinsky, with whom he shared the idea of the need for a spiritual renewal of Western art. This stance soon led to disagreements with other members and the group eventually split up.
Marc and Kandinsky exhibited under the name of Der Blaue Reiter in December 1911 and in 1912 they edited an almanac which, with their essays, soon became a manifesto on the new art, pivotal to the development of twentieth-century art. In 1912 Marc and Macke travelled to Paris, where they met Robert Delaunay and had firsthand contact with the Cubist trends. Thereafter Marc’s compositions tended towards greater abstraction. Around this time he started on his project to illustrate a bible, an initiative stemming from his profound religious beliefs.
When the First World War broke out, Marc joined up voluntarily as he was a fervent believer in the regenerating effect of war. He died on the Verdun front in 1916.