August Macke (3 January 1887 – 26 September
1914) was one of the leading members of the German Expressionist group Der
Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider). He lived during a particularly innovative time
for German art: he saw the development of the main German Expressionist
movements as well as the arrival of the successive avant-garde movements which
were forming in the rest of Europe. Like a true artist of his time, Macke knew
how to integrate into his painting the elements of the avant-garde which most
August Robert Ludwig Macke was born in Germany on 3 January 1887, in Meschede,
Westphalia. He was the only son of August Friedrich Hermann Macke (1845–1904), a
building contractor and amateur artist, and his wife, Maria Florentine, née Adolph,
(1848–1922), who came from a farming family in Westphalia's Sauerland region.
Shortly after August's birth the family settled at Cologne, where Macke was
educated at the Kreuzgymnasium (1897-1900) and became a friend of Hans Thuar, who
would also become an artist. In 1900, when he was thirteen, the family moved to
Bonn, where Macke studied at the Realgymnasium and became a friend of Walter
Gerhardt and Gerhardt's sister, Elisabeth, whom he would marry a few years later.
The first artistic works to make an impression on the boy were his father's
drawings, the Japanese prints collected by his friend Thuar's father and the works
of Arnold Böcklin which he saw on a visit to Basel in 1900. In 1904 Macke's father
died, and in that year Macke enrolled at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, under Adolf
Maennchen (1904-1906). During this period he also took evening classes under Fritz
Helmut Ehmke (1905), did some work as a stage and costume designer at the
Schauspielhaus Düsseldorf, and visited northern Italy (1905) and Netherlands,
Belgium and Britain (1906).
Artistic career 1907-1914
Thereafter Macke lived most of his creative life in Bonn, with the exception of
a few periods spent at Lake Thun in Switzerland and various trips to Paris, Italy,
the Netherlands and Tunisia. In Paris, where he traveled for the first time in
1907, Macke saw the work of the Impressionists, and shortly after he went to Berlin
and spent a few months in Lovis Corinth's studio. His style was formed within the
mode of French Impressionism and Post-impressionism and later went through a Fauve
period. In 1909 he married Elisabeth Gerhardt. In 1910, through his friendship with
Franz Marc, Macke met Kandinsky and for a while shared the non-objective aesthetic
and the mystical and symbolic interests of Der Blaue Reiter.
Macke's meeting with Robert Delaunay in Paris in 1912 was to be a sort of
revelation for him. Delaunay's chromatic Cubism, which Apollinaire had called
Orphism, influenced Macke's art from that point onwards. His Shops Windows can be
considered a personal interpretation of Delaunay's Windows, combined with the
simultaneity of images found in Italian Futurism. The exotic atmosphere of Tunisia,
where Macke traveled in April 1914 with Paul Klee and Louis Moilliet was
fundamental for the creation of the luminist approach of his final period, during
which he produced a series of works now considered masterpieces. August Macke's
oeuvre can be considered as Expressionism (in its original German flourishing
between 1905 and 1925), and also as part of Fauvism. The paintings concentrate
primarily on expressing feelings and moods rather than reproducing objective
reality, usually distorting colour and form.
Macke's career was cut short by his early death in the second month of the First
World War at the front in Champagne, France, on 26 September 1914. His final
painting, Farewell, depicts the mood of gloom that settled after the outbreak of
war. This was also the same year that he painted the famous painting, Türkisches
Café in München (1914).
At a 1997 Christie's auction, Macke's The Couple at a Garden Table (1914) was
sold for £2 million. Market in Tunis (1914) sold for £2.86 million ($4.1 million)
in 2000. Consigned by the estate of Ernst Beyeler, the artist’s In the Bazar (1914)
was auctioned for £3.96 million – then four and a half times the high estimate – at
Christie's in 2011.