August Macke German. Portrait of a wife with a hat, 1909

August Macke German expressionist with a tragic fate

August Macke German. Portrait of a wife with a hat, 1909
Portrait of a wife with a hat, 1909

August Macke was an outstanding German artist of the early twentieth century, a prominent representative of Expressionism in world art. The individual style in the paintings of August Macke can be easily recognized by the harmonious combination of colors and the presence of original lighting effects.

August Macke lived a very short life, but left behind a lot of wonderful paintings. He was an active member of the Blue Rider creative union, devoted a lot of energy to promoting contemporary art and organizing exhibitions of his colleagues.

August Macke German. Street with a church in Kanderna, 1911
Street with a church in Kanderna, 1911

Biography of August Macke

August Macke was born on January 3, 1887 in the small town of Meschede in western Germany in the family of a civil engineer. His father was fond of painting and painted countryside landscapes. He instilled in the boy a love of fine arts, although he did not want his son to become a professional artist.

But already at the age of fifteen, young August began to paint watercolors, to try himself in landscape, portrait and animalistic genres. He liked painting and, despite his father’s disagreement, in the summer of 1904 Macke entered the Dusseldorf Academy of Arts.

August Macke German. Russian ballet, 1912
Russian ballet, 1912

The young man did not like the classical teaching methods at the academy. Soon Macke began to miss classes, and in the fall of 1906 he dropped out altogether. Instead, August began attending courses at the local art and industrial school, which was dominated by more liberal morals. At the same time, he became interested in Japanese graphics, especially woodcuts by Katsushika Hokusai, the famous master of oriental engraving.

In the next year and a half, August Macke traveled to London, Basel and Paris to get acquainted with modern painting from different European countries. In the capital of France, he was able to personally see the work of the Impressionists, which made a strong impression on the young artist.

August Macke German. Large bright showcase, 1912
Large bright showcase, 1912

Macke decided to continue his painting studies in Berlin with the outstanding master of German Impressionism Lovis Corinth. During his studies, he often visited Berlin museums and read art history magazines.

Art Association “Blue Horseman”

In October 1908, August Macke was drafted into the army for 12 months, for this period he had to completely abandon painting. Immediately after demobilization, he married Elizabeth Gerhart, whom he later portrayed many times in his paintings. His wife gave him two sons Walter and Wolfgang, and 14 years after her husband’s death, she published 2 books of memoirs about him and their short-lived love.

August Macke German. Colored composition (dedicated to Johann Sebastian Bach, 1912
Colored composition (dedicated to Johann Sebastian Bach, 1912

In 1910 Macke met Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky. A year later, they together organized the famous art association “Blue Horseman”, and later together took part in exhibitions. Macke worked hard and constantly experimented with colors. He managed to develop his own style and gain recognition from the public. But very soon, in August 1914, the First World War began. Being liable for military service, the artist did not shy away from being drafted into the army. He was sent to the western front, where on September 26 August Macke died in a battle in France, near Souen. At the time of his death, the artist was only 27 years old.

Sailboat on Lake Tegernsee, 1912
Sailboat on Lake Tegernsee, 1912

The most famous paintings by August Macke

Among the most famous paintings by August Macke, you can find works of different styles and genres. The following works stand out in the artist’s creative heritage:

  • “Portrait of the Artist’s Wife in a Hat” (1909) is the most famous of a huge series of portraits of his beloved Elizabeth. The artist created it immediately after the wedding and managed to convey on canvas a deep feeling for his chosen one.
  • The Tempest (1911) is a masterpiece of abstract painting by the master, which he painted on the eve of the creation of The Blue Rider. During this period, Macke sincerely admired Kandinsky’s work and spent a lot of time talking about art.
  • Walkers on the Lake (1912) is heavily influenced by early Cubism by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Although there are simplified figures in the painting, Macke’s original style is still easy to read in this work.
St. Mary's with Houses and Chimney (Bonn) 1911
St. Mary’s with Houses and Chimney (Bonn) 1911
Still life with pillow with deer décor and a bouquet 1911
Still life with pillow with deer décor and a bouquet 1911
Still life with hyacinth on a carpet, 1910
Still life with hyacinth on a carpet, 1910
The Storm 1911
The Storm 1911
Vegetable field, 1911
Vegetable field, 1911