Deer In the Forest I was created at the pinnacle of Franz Marc’s tragically short career and is a masterful fusion of apparent contrasts: visions of the real and the symbolic; portents of doom and promise of redemption. By 1913 Marc had reached his mature style, painting heroic yet simplified images of animals, which he created as symbols for certain human characteristics and moral qualities. He combined a fluid, symbolist-derived line with vivid colors – glowing red, blue, yellow, placed alongside their complementaries – for, like his friend Wassily Kandinsky, he believed that colors were endowed with spiritual qualities and symbolic meaning.
Gradually Marc turned to abstraction, retaining some aspects of cubism and futurism but responding more deeply to the art of Robert Delaunay, whom he had met in 1912. Accordingly, he subsumed subject, detail, and background into an overall prismatic pattern of glowing colors. These unified compositions gave Marc’s paintings added expressive power and also offered a concrete equivalent in his pantheistic belief in the unity of all creation. Both in color and in form he endeavored to express his conviction that a spiritual reality lies beyond the visible world. Marc wished to express the deer’s capacity for emotion, stating: “I can paint a picture: ‘The Deer,’ … However, I may also wish to paint a picture ‘The Deer Feels.’ How infinitely more delicate the artist’s sensibilities must be to paint that!”