In 1913, Franz Marc, one of the key figures of German Expressionism, created a masterpiece: The Fate of the Animals. With its violent slashes of color and line, the painting seemed to pre-figure both the outbreak of World War I and, more eerily, Marc’s own death in an artillery barrage at the Battle of Verdun three years later.
“EARLY IN HIS ADULT LIFE, Peter Paul Rubens, the famous painter—though he was not yet famous at the time—took a trip to Italy with his apprentice Deodat del Monte. Rubens had been living in Antwerp with his mother. He wasn’t born in Antwerp, he was born in Siegen, in what is now Germany but was, at the time, not the unified country that it is today. Rubens was born in the time before nation-states as we know them existed. Before the French Revolution, before Bismarck, before Napoleon. Rubens was born in Siegen because his father had been in prison there, or thereabouts. That’s another part of the story we’ll get into later, the arrest and near execution of Rubens’s father.”