Marc vs. Kirchner

Essay by volcmsoftblgrl17 December 2006

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The Norton Simon Museum

My recent visit to the Norton Simon Museum was very different than any previous experience I have had with modern art. With only a semester's worth of knowledge under my belt, I was most definitely in awe, and thoroughly entertained, to say the least. Although inspired by many, I chose to analyze two works with very similar subject matter, by two German Expressionist artists. I compared a piece entitled, "Bathing Girls", painted by Franz Marc, to the similarly titled "Bathers Beneath Trees"; a work by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.

These artists, both born in 1880, were part of the same German Expressionist movement, but belonged to different schools of the movement. Kirchner belonged to the group named "Die Bruke" that worked in Dresden and Berlin while Marc was centered in Munich with the "Blaue Reiter" painters. The work by Marc was completed in 1910, three years prior to the piece by Kirchner, which he completed in 1913.

Both works are oil paintings on canvas and similarly sized. (Marc's work is 43 x 56 in. and Kirchner's is 59.5 x 47.5 in.)

One striking difference between these two paintings is the concept of texture, and how paint is applied. Kirchner uses very thick application of paint on his canvas to the point where the texture of the canvas does not show through, and no canvas is exposed. Marc on the other hand, applies paint with equal thickness to Kirchner's work in some places and leaves the texture quite thin in others, where both the color and texture of the canvas are visible. Kirchner's paint seems to be applied in thick stokes, leaving the surface rough with bubbles and other imperfections in the surface. Marc's work has a similar rough, blotted appearance but the amount of paint...