Franz Marc
"The yellow cow"

Franz Marc had seen it as his task to paint from the view of the animals. As they live in accord with nature, the animal world embodied to Franz Marc the idea of creation.

Further material for this article.

Franz Marc - "The yellow cow"

original student’s work

Artistically painting with the Pelikan K12 paint box

In this issue of Pelikan K12 – the original, we would like to present you an exclusive recommendation for your next lesson, working with the Pelikan paint box. Our focus of interest is the work of the artist Franz Marc.

"The yellow Cow"

Course of the teaching unit Franz Marc – "The yellow Cow"

The main aim was not a realistic copy of things. It is more likely that Franz Marc had seen it as his task to paint from the view of the animals. As they live in accord with nature, the animal world embodied to Franz Marc the idea of creation. Almost all his works show animals living in a paradisal world. To Marc, animals were pristine and therefore stood for him as a symbol for purity. The choice of colors was also very important to Franz Marc. To him it wasn’t only an expression for a technical and rather expressive way of painting - after all he often took the area surrounding the animals apart and often presented them in a cubistic way - but more he gave the colors a symbolic expressiveness by scoping yellow with the female sex, blue with the male and red with the matter.

It’s as easy as this: 

  1. Download the material pack "Franz Marc – The yellow Cow" from the internet.
  2. Print out the download template "cow":

  1. The download template "cow" can be used for introducing the lesson.

  2. For the further course of conversation, the download template "cow" can be useful. Animate your students to think of other environments for the cow. The following questions might be helpful:
    Questions for cow template:
    • How does the cow feel? (Expression of the body posture, e. g. joy, fear, high-spirits?)
    • What event would make the cow take such body posture?
    • In what environment could the cow be living?
    • What would the world look like from the view of the cow?
    If the students possibly don’t need a cow template for the discussion, then the following questions are probable options:
    Questions for cow template:
    • How do you imagine a cow, what are the special characteristics?
    • What color could a cow have? Are there any other possibilities?
    • With which body postures could you express the following feelings: Joy, sadness, high-spiritedness...
    • Where does a cow live, in what environment?
    • What would the world look like from the point of a cow?
    • Where do "yellow" cows live? (Do they even exist?)
    • How would the environment look like where the cow is in?
  3. After having collected some ideas for the environment of an own cow, the following line of proceeding can be discussed:
    1. First the background has to be painted. Intense colors painted with a wide paint brush give an expressive look. For the outlines, a thin paint brush and black paint can be used.
    2. The outlines of the cow are drawn on another piece of paper. Hereby everyone should decide what body posture (expression of feelings) they want their cow to have.
    3. The cow is painted in yellow, then cut it out and finally glue it to the background.
    Tip: It’s always important to give clear instructions! So choose "your" course and combine the materials as you like.
  4. The students work on their pictures.
  5. This teaching unit can be intensified by discussing the different effects of the background design with their advantages and disadvantages. The following two pictures might be useful here, as the differently colored backgrounds have totally other effects, despite of the same yellow cow in the front.

    The colored squares have a calm and peaceful effect in contrast to the colored circles on the right side. (Both pictures are available in the download template and can be printed on an overhead transparency)

  6. During the discussion, solutions to the difficulties about painting the cows can be worked out. The body posture probably is the most difficult part. The students can mime different postures.


Differentiation options

The template "cow" needed in point 3 and 4 is supposed to be created by the kids on their own. In case there are difficulties with this task, you can also hand out the template "cow" to the students.

The download template "cow" also serves as differentiation material.

Cows painted in other colors can change the impression of the work decisively. So it is thinkable, not to color the cows yellow, but in another color. The colorful cows are available in the download template and can be printed out, e. g. on a transparency:

Colorful cows can change the impression of the picture. The red cow gives an excited expression, the blue cow could be, in the meaning of Marc as an expression for masculinity, a bull.

The different color effects demonstrated in point 6 are created by circles and squares. In our download templates we offer you the coloring templates with or without cow, whereas on the last-named the cow can be glued on to later on.

The background-templates with squares and circles with cow.

The background-templates with squares and circles without cow.

A variation of the idea of a picture with one big cow is a picture with many small cows. This gives way to the possibility of integrating cows of different colors in one picture. A download template is also available for this option.

Many small cows can be combined in one picture, in case you cannot choose which color to use.

Students’ works as demonstration material

Despite the same conditions between the students, their pictures often look very different from each other. Especially remarkable hereby is the partly very different choice of colors, which gives the works a strong expressiveness.

These exemplary students’ works can be used as demonstration material in class.

About Franz Marc

  • 1880 Franz Marc was born on Febuary 8, 1880 as the child of the painter Wilhelm Marc and his wife Sophie (born Maurice) in Munich.
  • 1894 During his time in confirmation class, Franz Marc develops the wish to become a preacher.
  • 1898 Marc cannot fulfill his own expectations to the profession as a preacher. He decides to study Philology to become a grammar school professor.
  • 1903 Franz Marc travels to France in 1903, where he gets to know the works of the French impressionist Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) and Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863).
  • 1904 Marc moves in to an atelier in Schwabing. He makes friends with the married painter and copyist Annette von Eckhardt, whose marriage deeply afflicts Marc’s relationship to her.
  • 1907 Marc travels to Paris, where he becomes elated with the works of Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) and Paul Gauguins (1848-1903). The color palette of his own works become lighter. Marc earns his money with drawings to zootomy.
  • 1908 In 1908 Marc particularly paints animals, whereas he strives increasingly more for the simplification of shapes and the use of color as the standalone means of expression.
  • 1909 Thannhauser and Brakl, two important art dealers buy works from Franz Marc in 1909. Marc’s works become more and more influenced by van Gogh.
  • 1910 1910 Marc meets August Macke. He also get to know Kandinsky, Münter and Jawlensky. The same year in Febuary, the gallery Brakl presents an own exhibition of Marc’s works.
  • 1911 The first exhibition of the group of artists "Blaue Reiter", which Marc is part of, is presented in Thannhauser’s gallery in Munich. Beside others, the painting "Die gelbe Kuh" is made.
  • 1912 Marc publishes the magazine "Der blaue Reiter" along with Kandinsky. The exhibition "Der Blaue Reiter" is shown in the Berlin gallery "Der Sturm". Marc takes over the stylistic characteristics of the cubism more and more. Beside others, he creates the painting "Kühe, gelb-rot-grün".
  • 1913 Marc plans to publish a bible issue together with Klee and Kandinsky.
  • 1914 The last great paintings of Marc, like "Die Rehe im Wald II" are made in Ried near Benediktbeuren. Marc enlists as a volunteer at the beginning of World War I.
  • 1916 March 4, 1916 Marc dies through a deadly hit by a grenade double shot.