Foxes (Franz Marc)
Foxes is a painting in the cubist style by the German expressionist painter Franz Marc (1880-1916) from 1913. It shows two red foxes and was part of the collection of the Museum Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf from 1962. At the end of April 2021, the city of Düsseldorf announced that the painting would be restituted to the heirs of the former Jewish owner, Kurt Grawi. The handover took place in January 2022.
Marc's foxes are executed in oil on canvas and are 79.5 × 66 cm in size. It had the inventory number 0.1962.5490 in the Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast. The foxes were created in 1913 and clearly show the influence of Robert Delaunay, whom Marc visited in Paris in 1912 with his friend August Macke. The colorful, Orphic Cubism of Delaunay stimulated Marc, as did the rhythmic fragmentation of the Italian Futurists. The influences ensured a further development of Marc's expressionist style, which is clearly recognizable by his preferred motif of one or more foxes. Compared to his 1911 painting Blue Fox, the abstraction in the 1913 painting is more advanced. Two red foxes only become apparent to the viewer at second glance: in the foreground, an animal with a bowed head towers up, behind it another with a hanging tail is hidden. Horizontal, diagonal and vertical break through each other in the sense of cubism; the geometric structures result in a dynamic interplay. The few traces that are still objective also tend towards abstract form.
Provenance and exhibitions
The painting was first shown publicly in 1913 in the Hamburg gallery Bock. After the owner of the Der Sturm gallery, Herwarth Walden, and other private owners, it was owned by the Jewish Berlin merchant and art collector Kurt Grawi from 1928. From November 1938 he was imprisoned for several weeks in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, had to leave Germany penniless in 1939 and went into exile in Chile. It is not known whether Grawi himself sold the painting before fleeing and, if so, under what circumstances. In 1940 it was in American private hands in New York. How it got there is again unknown. It was resold via the Karl Kidney Village gallery. After the Second World War it was acquired by the Bern art dealership Klipstein & Kornfeld. The entrepreneur Helmut Horten bought it from them in 1961 and donated it to the Düsseldorf Museum Kunstpalast in 1962. It was one of the most famous works there. Its value is estimated at up to 14 million euros.
In 2018, the heirs of Kurt Grawis made a restitution claim, which the City Council of Düsseldorf unanimously approved in a closed session in April 2021. On July 9, 2021, criminal charges were filed against the responsible city officials who recommended the return of the foxes, as well as the city council members who approved the decision, to prevent the return. According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the former presiding judge at the Berlin Administrative Court, Friedrich Kiechle, had filed the complaint. In September 2021, Lord Mayor Stephan Keller ordered the immediate return of the picture to Kurt Grawi's heirs. The handover took place in January 2022.
Kay Heymer: Franz Marc (1880-1916): Foxes, 1913. Artwork of the month June 2013. Museum Kunstpalast (archived from the original on February 10, 2018).
Recommendation of the Advisory Commission in the matter of heirs to Kurt and Else Grawi ./. State capital Düsseldorf. Advisory commission in connection with the return of cultural property confiscated as a result of Nazi persecution, in particular from Jewish property, March 25, 2021 (PDF, 193 kB)