August Macke – Jan 3 1887 – Sept 26 1914
Little Walter's Toys. 1912
He knows he is about to die. The way you know something in your bones. So he calls his last painting Farewell.
And then he dies – at 27.
Who knows what Macke would have done had he survived WWI. But the body of work he leaves before his early demise shows someone in a great hurry to process through the most advanced aesthetic developments of his time - the most radical artists - in a headlong rush to join their ranks. Check out the amazing 1912 Fauvist Little Walter's Toys.
Macke cycles through Cezanne, Van Gogh, Matisse, Kandinsky, co-founds the Blaue Reiter group, hangs out with Klee, and in 1912, goes to Paris, where he falls for the chromatic Cubism aka Orphism of Delaunay; and of course, for the man himself, Pablo Picasso, who was at the time in full-on analytic Cubist mode, and the absolute dernier cri.
But, lest you are left with the impression that Macke never got it together as a mature artist – too much of an experimenter, didn't have the time to develop his own thing – well: Tunisia.
In April 1914 he travels - with Paul Klee - to Tunisia, where he produces a body of abstracted landscapes of nearly incandescent luminosity (and rightly termed luminist); a transcendent fusion of Picasso's fragmented geometries and Delaunay's chromatic exuberance. Macke's Tunisian works stand as one of the landmarks of early modernism. Above is a selection.
A few months later, August Macke makes his last painting, a Cubistic street scene in ominously somber tones. And then – well, you know. Who knows how he might have developed with the conservative advent of the New Objectivism in the wake of the Great War. (My guess: a swing back to representation; just a guess.)
So happy birthday, August Macke; he would be 130 today. Props for the body of work you managed to make before getting butchered by the vast obscenity of industrialized war, and regrets, for the possible giant of Modernism that you never got the chance to be.