Phillips Petting Zoo: Franz Marc

Franz Marc, Deer in the Forest I, 1913. Oil on canvas. 39 3/4 x 41 1/4 in. The Phillips Collection

I’ve always been curious about artists and their pets, and Franz Marc may be one of the biggest animal lovers represented in The Phillips Collection. Marc often depicted horses, deer, and dogs as innocent creatures. With his paintings, he aimed to express animals’ feelings and encourage viewers to empathize with the natural world. The deer seen in Deer in Forest I (1913) have been associated with innocence, vulnerability, and gentleness.

Marc didn’t just paint animals; he also lived with them.  As a boy he was inseparable from his dog, and he had many pets, including Schlick and Hanni, a male and female deer he owned at the end of his life (my colleague Klaus explained to me that it used to be fairly common to keep deer as pets in Germany-at least before Lyme disease became a concern). Artist Wassily Kandinsky visited Marc’s home and met Schlick and Hanni. Kandinsky noted that Marc loved his animals as though they were his own children.

Interestingly, Marc isn’t the only artist to have kept deer as pets. Frida Kahlo had a fawn named Granizo. Actress Audrey Hepburn had a deer named Pippin. They even went to the grocery store together!

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