Franz Marc was born on February 8,1880, in Munich. According to his first biographyer, Alois Schardt, Marc was so ugly at birth that his father, when taking a first close look at his son at baptism, fainted. Undeterred by the family's reaction, Marc quickly emulated their character, becoming know, while still a baby, as the "little philosopher". His father, Wilhelm, was landscapist of "curiously philosophical character", according to Franz; his mother, Sophie, was an Alsacian from a strict Calvinist tradition. Marc's grandparents, were amateur artists who copied the masters. They and his great grandparents were aristocrats, with friends among artists as well as people of letters.
Following the lead of his family, Marc studied theology intensely. The family contemplated both the spiritual essence of Christianity and its cultural responsibilities. Marc was sufficiently moved by the background and his confirmation in 1894 that, for the next five years, his goal was to become a priest. But he mingled with his theological studies the Romantic literature of both England and Germany. Finally, near the end of 1898, Marc gave up his goal of becoming a priest to study philosophy at University of Munich. But suddenly, in 1900, the ethical, high-minded youth turned to art. He studied drawing first with Gabriel Hackl and then painting with Wilhelm von Diez, both at the Munich Academy.
In the first years of the twentieth century, artistic training in Munich emphasized the traditional verities of academic naturalism and studio production. French Impressionist color innovations were still largely unknown. At this early stage in his development, Marc reflects the thematic concerns of such predecessors as Caspar David Friedrich in that the human being is dwarfed by the awesome appearance of nature.
Marc's stiff studio style begins to undergo a transition in subsequent years due to a variety of French influences. A trip to Paris in 1903 initiated an interest in Impressionism. Unfortunately, Marc's artistic development was accompanied by melancholy and upheavals in his emotional life. His religious outlook was at odds with the Munich youth movement and the city's burgeoning bohemian atmosphere. He spent summers in the mountains in 1905 and 1906 as well as traveling to Greece in 1906, attempting to recuperate from unhappy love affairs. This period of anxiety came to a tumultuous end when, on his wedding night, following marriage to the painter Marie Schnur, he left for Paris. That summer, in 1907, his marriage was dissolved.