At the turn of the century, Franz Marc was part of an avant-garde circle of Russian and German painters known as Der blaue Reiter
(The Blue Rider). With fellow members Wassily Kandinsky, August Macke, and others, Marc explored the psychological effects of color and line in daring abstract compositions. Following a doctrine of "inner necessity," The Blue Rider ceased representing the "real" world and, instead, painted visions derived from the "inner mind."
Marc's Die grossen blauen Pferde (The Large Blue Horses) is an excellent example of the artist's use of color and line to symbolize universal principles. He often chose animals as his subject matter because he believed in their "purer, more sublime relationship with the world," and used abstract color (a brilliant blue) and line (the curving of the horses' necks) to communicate their spiritual harmony with nature.