MACKE August
( 1887-1914). German painter and designer; born at Meschede in the Ruhr; died at Perthes, in Champagne, during the war. His main training was at the Düsseldorf Academy, 1904-6, and he also studied with Lovis Corinth in Berlin, 1907-8. During visits to Paris after 1907, he came in contact with French painting: the Impressionists, then the Fauves, and later Cubism. In 1909-1910 he met Franz Marc and Kandinsky in Munich, and in 1911 he took part in the preparation of the Blaue Reiter almanac. Breaking off a stay at Hilterfingen by the Lake of Thun in the spring of 1914, he went on a trip to Tunisia along with Klee and the Swiss painter Moillet. A few weeks after his return to Bonn, he left for the war and was killed in action, aged 27.
Because Macke was associated with the Blaue Reiter, it is tempting to consider his work only in relation to that movement. But his position was quite different from that of Kandinsky or Franz Marc. Whereas Marc turned toward direct expression of a spiritual reality, Macke always remained deeply concerned with visual experience. His sensitivity allowed him to benefit more than any other German painter from the lesson of French painting. It is possible that the spirit of the Rhineland, where he spent nearly all his life, made this contact easier for him. As early as 1910 his painting, which had undergone the influence of Impressionism and then of Cé zanne, developed a broader, freer rhythm inspired by the works of Matisse. In fact, the painting of his friends of the Blaue Reiter confused him more than it helped him find his way.
It was the influence of Cubism, to some extent of Futurism, and, above all, of Delaunay, that helped him as early as 1908 to find his own idiom. He was enthusiastic about Delaunay The Windows, and paid a visit to the painter in Paris; the latter came to see him in Bonn with the poet Guillaume Apollinaire. While the influence of Cubism simplified Macke's form, Futurism suggested a means for more complete representation of life. This representation he meant to accomplish by the use of light and colour in 'simultaneous contrast', after the example set by Delaunay. In this way his painting found its own form. In just about a year, at Bonn and Hilterfingen, in Tunisia, and again at Bonn, a body of work of luminous colour and perfect grace and distinction was born. Some small abstract compositions, in 1913-1914, reveal Delaunay's influence, but, unlike the abstractions of Franz Marc, Macke's did not indicate the general direction of his work. Macke's painting, on the whole, remained representational: strollers by a lake, children, girls under trees, women before a milliner's display -- such are the subjects he preferred. The figures are quiet in the midst of motion, or as they wait, and the moment becomes fixed in a hazy space created by pure and luminous colours. From the Tunisian trip Macke brought back, in addition, water-colours of crystalline structure.
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