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MYSTERY OF THE LOST MARC

THE TOWER OF BLUE HORSES (1913)

Confiscated by Hermann Goering, lost since 1945

Cover of the Almanac of the Blue Rider by Wassily Kandinsky
Franz Marc, Grazing Horses III (1910)

A SYMBOLIC WORK

Franz Marc, one of the best loved artists in Germany, is a principal exponent of German expressionism and one of the fathers of abstract painting.At the beginning of the 20th century, together with Vassily Kandinsky and August Macke, he was one of the founding members of the group of artists known as “Der Blaue Reiter” – The Blue Rider – which considered art as an expression of interior content and the manifestation of an uninhibited relationship with nature.

The search for a simplified form, the free use of color and the study of the innocent and primitive life of animals are at the base of his artistic poetry.The artist’s role, for Marc, was to be immune to any naturalistic reference and to allow color to possess its own autonomy and expressive strength, meaning each color takes on a precise symbolic significance: blue is the male and spiritual essence, yellow is the delicate, joyous and sensual female essence, while red, brutal and heavy, must be fought against and dominated by the other two.

Cover of the Almanac of the Blue Rider by Wassily Kandinsky
Franz Marc, Grazing Horses III (1910)
Elena Pontiggia, Professor of Art History, Accademia di Brera, Milan
Franz Marc, Horses at pasture (1910)
Franz Marc, Horse in landscape (1910)
Franz Marc, The large blue horses (1911)

In the work “The Tower of Blue Horses”, which arose after an exchange of letters with the poet Else Lasker-Schüler, four blue horses form a tower that expresses pride and vitality.The work is animated by opposing colors that, rather than separating the figures from the background, suggest an interpenetration of the forms through Marc’s skilled use of the curved lines, which he uses to depict both the animals and the landscape.

The painting lends itself to multiple interpretations; the most accredited is that the four horses represent the four horses of the Apocalypse, a dark premonition of the imminent world war.The Tower of Blue Horses” was Marc’s last great painting that placed the animal world as protagonist before his departure for the front where he died on the battlefield.

Franz Marc, Horses at pasture (1910)
Franz Marc, Horse in landscape (1910)
Franz Marc, The large blue horses (1911)
Dorothy Price, Reader in History of Art, Univeristy of Bristol
Poster of the Degenerate Art exhibition
Poster of The Exhibition of Official German Art
Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering, in Italy (1934)

FROM DEGENERATE ART TO DISAPPEARANCE

Munich 19th July 1937. On the second floor of the Archeological Institute the exhibition of Entartete Kunst – Degenerated Art – was opened. In the museum rooms, flanked by contemptuous slogans, hundreds of works of art were exhibited that reflected ideals and values contrary to the Nazi ideology. Among the masterpieces by Chagall, Klee, Kandinsky, Mondrian and other great masters of the avant-garde hung also Franz Marc’s “The Tower of Blue Horses”.

Killed on a battlefield of the First World War, Marc was considered by many to be a war hero. For this reason, a few days after the opening of the most absurd art exhibition ever organized, a wave of strong criticism from veterans of the Great War resulted in the work being removed from the exhibition.

The Tower of Blue Horses” disappeared from the Archeological Institute and never reappeared again in public.

Poster of the Degenerate Art exhibition
Poster of The Exhibition of Official German Art
Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering, in Italy (1934)
Katja Blomberg, Director Haus am Waldsee, Berlin
Hitler with his ministres at The Hotel Kaiserhof, Berlin, headquarter of the National Socialists. From left to right: Wilhelm Frick, Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler, Ernst Roehm, Hermann Goering, Alfred Rosenberg, Heinrich Himmler.
Adolf Hitler with Nazi Field Marshal, Hermann Goering
Hermann Goering with the elk he has just killed in East Prussia. One of the official titles he later held was 'Chief Huntsman of the Reich'

From that day on, the theories about its fate have multiplied. According to some, the work, despite its elements drawn from the Hebrew Kabbalah, was much admired by one of the

officials closest to Hitler, Hermann Göring, who used the chance to get his hands on the painting in 1938 and remove it along with other modernist works of art.

Rumors hold that Göring, due to the Jewish references in the work like the crescent moon and stars, never hung the painting in his office or in his private residence.The canvas is, however, in the inventory of his collection, although there is still no trace of it to this day.

There are many theories on where the painting might be, but all enquiries have drawn a blank. Many believe that “The Tower of Blue Horses” could be in the collection of some heir who may be unaware of its value, while others say the painting is probably in Russia or some former Soviet republic, where it was brought as part of the victory spoils. Despite the speculation about its mysterious disappearance, to date nothing remains except its memory, a memory that is still ardently felt in the heart of all Germans.

Hitler with his ministres at The Hotel Kaiserhof, Berlin, headquarter of the National Socialists. From left to right: Wilhelm Frick, Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler, Ernst Roehm, Hermann Goering, Alfred Rosenberg, Heinrich Himmler.
Adolf Hitler with Nazi Field Marshal, Hermann Goering
Hermann Goering with the elk he has just killed in East Prussia. One of the official titles he later held was 'Chief Huntsman of the Reich'
Two phases of the re-creation process of The Tower of the Blue Horses
Intermediate stage of the re-created The Tower of the Blue Horses

THE RETURN OF “THE TOWER OF BLUE HORSES

For the re-materialization of “The Tower of Blue Horses”, the Factum Arte team was able to use some of the preliminary sketches made on a postcard addressed to the poet Else Lasker-Schülerand a poor-quality photo of the painting.

The first step was to digitally scale up the poor-quality image, print it on a canvas the same size as the original painting and use it as a base for the work of re-materialization.

Working manually on the canvas, the painters on the team were able to recreate the shapes of the painting, but not however, in any of the versions produced, a faithful reproduction of Marc’s original colors.

Two phases of the re-creation process of The Tower of the Blue Horses
Intermediate stage of the re-created The Tower of the Blue Horses
Adam Lowe with artist and painter Jordi García Pons, Factum Arte
Re-materialization of “The Tower of Blue Horses” in Factum Arte's laboratory
Re-materialization of “The Tower of Blue Horses” in Factum Arte's laboratory

During a trip to Germany, at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, the team was able to observe more closely the painter’s work and carefully study in detail the palette of colors used by Marc, to compare the tones with those of their attempts on canvas.

After this study trip, the best version produced by the Factum Arte team was then photographed in high definition and digitally retouched using the color information gained in Munich to bring it as close as possible to the original colors used by the artist.

The resulting image was then printed for a first time on canvas, after which it was re-photographed and underwent further retouching to ensure that every aspect of the painting would be accurate and precise in the final version.

Following this new procedure of re-touching, the image was digitally printed on a canvas prepped with gesso and then varnished with wax and finished with a fine layer of gloss varnish to give the colors a greater uniformity, making the re-materialization as similar as possible to the disappeared painting.

Re-materialization of “The Tower of Blue Horses” in Factum Arte's laboratory
Re-materialization of “The Tower of Blue Horses” in Factum Arte's laboratory
Adam Lowe with expert Katja Blomberg

RECREATION OF
THE TOWER OF BLUE HORSES

Digital Recreation of Franz Marc’s “The Tower of Blue Horses” (1913)
2017 Pigment and gesso on canvas
Recreation by Factum Arte