Wilhelm Marc (German, 1839-1907)
Equality of Rank, n.d.
Oil on canvas 44 1/2 in. x 62 in. (113.03 cm x 157.48 cm)
Crocker Art Museum, E. B. Crocker Collection1872.646
The Bavarian painter Wilhelm Marc, born in the town of Landshut, was best known for his paintings of daily life. Though little is known of his early training, he became a favorite at the court of the Wittelsbach King Ludwig II and was commissioned to paint frescoes in the new palace at Herrenchiemsee, for which construction began in 1878. In this scene, groups of children play dancing games in a wood, under the watchful eyes of the women at right. In the foreground, one of the leaders, dressed in white, reaches her hand in greeting to a shy young boy. Recoiling from her, he is then prompted by his friend to return the greeting. Much of the scene’s charm lies in the fact that these actions unwittingly mirror those of young people of dating age.
Paintings of children, their activities and interactions, were popularized in Germany through the works of artists such as Philipp Otto Runge in the late 18th century, when the concept of childhood as a peaceful and protected stage of life came to be accepted by middle-class society. By Marc’s time, the genre had found such a ready market that artists were able to specialize in paintings of children. Wilhelm’s son Franz, born in 1880, took a very different artistic path, becoming a modernist painter and a member of the Blaue Reiter movement in Munich.