24 March 2024 – 30 June 2024

The artist Karin Kneffel, the Romanist Barbara Vinken and the art historians Cathrin Klingsöhr-Leroy and Julia Voss take an unfamiliar look at the Franz Marc Museum collection and, through unusual impulses, enable new perspectives to be gained on supposedly well-known works by the Blauer Reiter (Blue Rider) and Brücke (Bridge) artists.

“Can anything new be said about German Expressionism?” Michael Kumpfmüller in his essay On the Happiness of Seeing and the Work that Comes with it.

In a museum collection, the core of which is devoted to the works of the Blauer Reiter and Brücke artists, this question crops up with every exhibition and every new presentation of the collection. What approach should be taken that addresses new questions in the field of research and opens up new perspectives for museum visitors?

Today, it is hard to conceive that these works provoked scandals at the time they were created and that Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky had to fight to find a publisher and to fund the Blauer Reiter almanac. Taking a more in-depth look at the ideas represented in this important manifesto of modernism – the precedence of spiritual over material values, the criticism of an academic and Eurocentric bias, the search for the origin of things – ideas can be found that united the international avant-garde in its fundamental critique of society: it was about breaking up long-established and accepted hierarchies, about the relationship between man and woman, about the desire for a ‘natural’ way of life in a world increasingly dominated by industrialisation and technology.

The exhibition Through Other Eyes attempts to open up new perspectives by taking an unconventional approach. Four curators have been invited to highlight aspects of the collection at the Franz Marc Museum that they are currently addressing in their own academic and artistic work. This is not to be seen from a classical art-historical perspective but is rather a view ‘from the outside’.

The artist Karin Kneffel combines pictures from her series ‘Face of a woman, head of a child’ with mother-and-child depictions from the Expressionist period, namely paintings and sculptures by Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Paula Moderson-Becker, Max Beckmann, Franz Marc and Otto Müller.

The Romanist and gender and fashion researcher Barbara Vinken comments on works by Else Lasker-Schüler, Otto Dix, Alexej von Jawlensky and others, seen in the light of her current publications on the subversive character of fashion since the French Revolution.

The art historian Julia Voss, an expert on the work of Hilma af Klint, juxtaposes watercolours by the artist with paintings by Wassily Kandinsky. Both were pioneers on the path to abstract, painting at the same time, around 1910 – without ever meeting each other.

Cathrin Klingsöhr-Leroy, the director of the Franz Marc Museum, contributes a chapter on the spirituality of plants. At the centre is a work by Wolfgang Laib (Pollenberg / Pollen Mountain) that faces a painting by Paul Klee) Wachstum der Nachtpflanzen / Growth of night plants). These works, like Leiko Ikemura’s calligraphic tree pictures or Peter Handke’s notes on nature, highlight a perceptive view of plants, fully aware of their spiritual power.

As self-contained thematically-conceived rooms these micro-exhibitions are integrated in the general presentation of the permanent collection and break up a more conventional tour of the museum, presenting visitors with unexpected points of view and perspectives. Instead of one large exhibition with numerous loans, the aim is to gain new insights into how things can be seen ‘from the outside’ while generating unfamiliar impulses.

Alexejj von Jawlensky, Die Bucklige, 1911 (Detail)
Franz Marc Museum, Dauerleihgabe aus Privatbesitz

7 July 2024 – 15 September 2024

Among the animals that Franz Marc particularly liked to paint – horses, cats, donkeys and birds – the deer holds a special place. This motif, that can be found throughout his entire œuvre, also has a special symbolic meaning.

This symbolic quality is derived from medieval tales, romantic poetry and mythology as well as descriptions of nature that depict the deer as a particularly nimble and graceful animal, defenceless, shy and with large brown eyes. In stories, it is often lent human characteristics and is clearly associated with the feminine.

Franz Marc underlines these attributions in his drawings, watercolours and paintings. By separating colour from an object’s natural appearance, something that is fundamentally important to his work, the emotional quality of the deer is emphasised. Following his early depictions of the animal with a beige-brownish coat, Marc then painted deer in red or blue, colours which, in line with his thoughts on the symbolic meaning of colour, have opposing associations. While red stands for a connection with the earth, blue is the colour of spirituality, of overcoming worldly constraints. It is in this sense that the deer appears in one of Franz Marc’s most important late paintings: Tierschicksale (Animal Destinies). At the centre of an apocalyptic scene of a storm with fire and lightning, from which the forest animals are fleeing, a blue deer can be seen, stretching upwards in pain in the throes of death, symbolising its vanquish at the same time. It takes on the role of the victim.

The deer as a victim of human civilisation is a central thought in the work of Franz Marc who himself kept two pet deer when he lived in Sindelsdorf and later in Ried. It is also a topos that runs through the depiction of the animal in all epochs and media. From Gustave Flaubert and Georg Trakl to Walt Disney’s ‘Bambi’ (1942) the innocent deer is contrasted with the cruelty of humankind. Biological facts, however, are often ignored in the process. The male roe deer is not a stag, as often depicted in stories and pictures, but a roebuck, which does not have the same mythological or religious connotations as the (red deer) stag. Its connection with the legend of Saint Hubertus turns it into an admonisher to hunters, calling on them to hunt in moderation.

Based on Marc’s painting Red Deer, the exhibition shows that the significance of the deer and the stag as sacrificial animals remained latent even in the second half of the 20th century. This is particularly true of Joseph Beuys, for whom the stag was of great symbolic importance and frequently appears in the artist’s early drawings and watercolours. In the case of Sigmar Polke, however, who painted a deer stylistically reminiscent of Franz Marc’s on a woollen blanket that conjures up associations with school camps, youth movements and expulsion, it has less to do with the defencelessness of the animal than with his criticism of petty-bourgeois myths, with which the deer is also associated in Heimatfilme and romantic portrayals of the forest.

Li.: Franz Marc, Getötetes Reh, 1913
Aus Skizzenbuch XXVIII, S. 20, Franz Marc Museum. Stiftung Etta und Otto Stangl. Foto:

Re.: Sigmar Polke, Reh, 1968, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen – Sammlung Moderne Kunst in der Pinakothek der Moderne München
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2023/24. Foto: bpk | Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen