August Macke

Date/place of birth

January 3, 1887, Meschede

Day/place of death

September 26, 1914, Champagne wine region

August Macke - Kaffeetafel im Garten
August Macke - Kaffeetafel im Garten

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August Macke biography

The First World War prematurely ended the great career of August Macke, although he used the decade he was given to become one of the most important masters of German Expressionism. His widow Elisabeth Erdmann-Macke safeguarded her husband’s work from destruction through two wars, thereby securing a valuable artistic legacy for posterity.

August Macke – The study of art, against his father’s wishes

August Macke was born in Meschede on 3 January 1887. After two sisters, he was the third child of the engineer and building contractor August Friedrich Macke and his wife Maria Florentine. His father showed a vague interest in art, collecting old engravings and also practicing drawing himself. August Macke already showed his zest for art during his schooling in Cologne and Bonn and stood out for his special achievements in painting and drawing. After meeting his later wife and great muse Elisabeth Gerhardt in 1903, he went against his father’s wishes and chose to study art at the Königliche Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf. However, he was not really happy there, bothered rather by the rigid curriculum and the uninspired drawing of plaster casts. His move to the Düsseldorf Kunstgewerbeschule where he met with a wide range of stimuli was much more successful. His good friend Wilhelm Schmidtbonn procured him commissions for stage set decorations and costume designs from the Düsseldorf Schauspielhaus which he enthusiastically fulfilled. 

Tuition from Lovis Corinth, friendship with Franz Marc

A trip to Paris in 1907, however, proved groundbreaking, bringing him into contact with Impressionism: Macke spontaneously decided to pursue this direction and turned to one of the greatest masters of Impressionism, Lovis Corinth, who was teaching at a private art school in Berlin. Further travels to Italy and Paris followed; Macke worked as a consultant for the uncle of his later wife, the patron and art collector Bernhard Koehler. After his marriage in 1909, August Macke met the Expressionist Franz Marc, seven years his senior. It developed into a fruitful friendship, eventually leading to Macke’s work with the Blaue Reiter, which Marc had co-founded with Wassily Kandinsky. However, his relationship with Kandinsky proved to be difficult, and Macke again soon distanced himself from the artists’ association, whose aspirations seemed to him too spiritual.  

August Macke’s favourite motif was the person

Even when August Macke was strongly inspired by his friend Franz Marc’s style in his landscape pictures, his favourite motif remained the person. He particularly liked painting his wife Elisabeth, portraying her over two hundred times. Time and again, Macke’s paintings stand out for their special ambience of colour and light. He found important inspiration on a trip to Tunisia which brought him closer to the Orient’s very own world of colour and light. On this trip alone, the highly productive artist created 38 excellent watercolours as well as over a hundred drawings. For his lively depictions, Macke relied above all on his keen powers of observation, which he used to fill his ever-present sketchbook. No professor teaches the natural movement of animals and humans, he wrote early on to his parents. 

The outbreak of the First World War brought the artist’s conscription and the end of his creative period: August Macke was killed in action on 26 September 1914; he was only 27 years old. 

© Kunsthaus Lempertz

August Macke Prices

August MackeKaffeetafel im Garten€592.000
August MackeSonniger Garten€425.000
August MackeWeiblicher Akt von rückwärts auf rosa Grund€421.600
August MackeBlumenkasten mit Kaktus€400.000
August MackeSpaziergänger unter Bäumen€272.800
August MackeWäsche in Kandern. Verso: Münsterkirche in Bonn€260.400

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