Friday, July 31, 2009

Franz Marc and The Yellow Cow

Once upon a time there was a Guggenheim museum at The Venetian hotel in Las Vegas. I was once there with my sister, visiting an exhibit called The Art of the Motorcycle. Her idea, not mine. If I took nothing else from it, I now pay attention to the Ducatis that I see now and then.

But I took more from it. Much, much more.

Not from the exhibit, but from the gift shop. It was there that I first saw this poster

and first became aware of the German Expressionist, Franz Marc.

I didn’t buy the poster at the time but the image really stuck with me. Once I saw more of his work, it really drew me in. Here was an artist who shared my cosmology. He painted a world of animals as avatar – a world that acknowledged their emotions and by painting animals represented oneness, interconnectedness, natural order. Even his later work, though less joyful and more violent, through a lens of the animal world reflected the world that was soon to be.

The Yellow Cow was painted in 1911. My house was just in its second year then so they are contemporaries. Just afterward, Marc’s work turned darker, more ominous such as in the tone of this -

The Fate of the Animals was painted in 1913. By 1914, Europe was at war. In 1916 Franz Marc was killed at the Battle of Verdun.

I realize that having a tile reproduction of a painting in my kitchen isn’t really part of a traditional Craftsman aesthetic. But my home isn’t meant to be a restoration, only a respectful rehabilitation. I think the fact that the house is contemporaneous with the original work makes it ok. I don’t remember how I found the tile mural. I was playing around online, maybe looking for references to the artwork when I found a company that makes art reproductions on tile. I think that was in 2005. I had to have it. I mean I had to have it. I ordered it right away, even though I knew that work on the kitchen wouldn't begin for years. Once the box of tiles arrived, I never opened it. I don’t know why, just never did. The box went into the basement for three years. The first time I opened the box, it was to get a match on the paint color for the kitchen wall. The big purple spot in the cow’s center would be the color of the two kitchen walls. (for years I thought the spot was blue. That’s how it looked online – good thing I checked the actual tile before buying paint!) I’ve still never seen the actual painting. It’s part of the permanent collection at the Guggenheim in New York but when I was last there it wasn’t on display.

After the walls were painted there was still a lot more work to do. Months passed. But then one Saturday I left for work knowing that when I got home, the tile would be up. I’d see the full mural at last.

Then, when the moment finally came, I hated it. I’d become accustomed to the plain, clean, purple wall behind the stove. Seeing the tile image there was a shock. It seemed too big, too garish. It was just way, way, way too much.

The next day I broke the news. “We can’t keep it,” I said. K was disappointed. I was supposed to pick out grout that afternoon but I knew that once we grouted it, that was it. We were making a commitment to keeping it.

We talked about it. I decided to let it grow on me. Live with it a few more days and see what happened. I was kicking myself for making an emotional decision in choosing the tile in the first place. I had succumbed to sentimentality. But I felt really bad about deciding to take out the tile. It seemed like such a shame. Grr! Stupid sentimentality was swaying me again! Yes, it would be some money down the drain, but not an exorbitant amount. And yes, the wall would have been totally messed up in that spot so that would have been more work, additional delays in the kitchen, but that wasn’t the biggest thing for me. The biggest thing was that I felt bad for the image. I would have felt bad about destroying The Yellow Cow. Grr! It’s just tile, not the original painting!!! Stupid sentimentality.

I’m now glad that I lived with it for a few more days. Eventually, The Yellow Cow stopped surprising me every time I rounded the corner. While it remains the room’s focal point, it stopped taking ALL the focus in the room for me.

I chose a purplish grout and then we framed it in black tile. The black framing helped a lot, helping integrate the mural into the wall.

It’s a bold choice for a small room. But I now like The Yellow Cow on her wall, dancing for all the other cows on the other walls. I’m glad I can daily enjoy a work of art that was made when my house was only two years old, when the world was a completely different place.

That’s how I became hooked on the artist Franz Marc and his painting The Yellow Cow and my own reproduction of The Yellow Cow in my kitchen tile backsplash.

See what others are hooked on at Julia’s Friday blog party at Hooked on Houses.

You can see more Franz Marc art here, including a chronological lineup.


modernemama said...

I love it because it is a dramatic statement, it's amazing what a difference grout colors can make to the overall effect, isn't it?

Laura Ingalls Gunn said...

I am visiting via Hooked on Houses.
Please drop by and enter my giveaway.

Have a blessed weekend!

Why S? said...

M/mama - You're right about grout colors. I never knew grout came in colors until I had a house. I especially love those samples that come as little sticks.

Thanks, Laura. Every weekend is a blessing.

Anonymous said...

I wish you could remember the name of the company. They did an excellent job. Is it hand painted or done through some kind of digital process?

Why S? said...

Hi Pasadena Adjacent. Thanks, for stopping by Red Hill. Actually, I do know where I got the tile. It's from:

I thought they'd gone out of business but I suspect that last time I checked, I got the URL wrong, thought it was a dot com, not dot net.

It must be a digital process because they have a huge selection on their site. I think the prices have gone up since I bought mine, so I'm glad I did it way back then.

NV said...

I think it's awesome. I always love when something is stylish AND functional!