Futurism (1909-1944)

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The City Rises, Boccioni
Funeral of the Anarchist Galli, Carrà
Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash, Balla
Dancer at Pigalle, Severni
Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, Boccioni
Mlle Pogany, Brancusi

Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Stella
La Città Nuova, Sant’Elia
Speeding Train, Pannaggi
Calder’s Circus, Calder
Aerial Portrait of Mussolini, Ambrosi
L’Air, Maillol
Brooklyn Bridge, Stella

Futurism was launched by the Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in 1909. On 20 February he published his Manifesto of Futurism on the front page of the Paris newspaper Le Figaro.

Among modernist movements futurism was exceptionally vehement in its denunciation of the past. This was because in Italy the weight of past culture was felt as particularly oppressive. In the Manifesto, Marinetti asserted that ‘we will free Italy from her innumerable museums which cover her like countless cemeteries’. What the futurists proposed instead was an art that celebrated the modern world of industry and technology: We declare…a new beauty, the beauty of speed. A racing motor car…is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.

Futurist painting used elements of neo-impressionism and cubism to create compositions that expressed the idea of the dynamism, the energy and movement, of modern life.

Chief artists associated with futurism were Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni, Gino Severini.

Vorticism was essentially the British equivalent to futurism, but Wyndham Lewis the founder of the vorticists was deeply hostile to the futurists.

[Source: tate.org.uk]


Image source: Wikimedia commons
The Italian painter Umberto Boccioni’s first major Futurist work. Buildings in construction in a suburb can be seen with chimneys in the upper part, but most of the space is occupied by men and horses, melted together in a dynamic effort.

Boccioni thus emphasizes some of the most typical elements of futurism, the exaltation of human work and the importance of the modern town, built around modern necessities. The painting portrays the construction of a new city with developments and technology.
[Source: Wikimedia commons]
City Rises, The1910Oil/CanvasAbstract
Boccioni, Umberto1882-1916, aged 34Italian painterFuturism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1631-11]

MOMA, Museum of Modern Art, 11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019, USA199 x 301  
In this painting Carlo Carrà commemorates the death of Angelo Galli during a strike in Milan and the subsequent funerary parade to the cemetery, which erupted into violence between anarchists and the police.

At the centre of the canvas, Galli’s red coffin is held precariously aloft, surrounded by a chaotic explosion of figures clad in anarchist black, illuminated and dissected by light emanating both from the coffin and the sun.
[Source: khanacademy.org]

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Funeral of the Anarchist Galli1910-1Oil/CanvasAbstract
Carrà, Carlo 1881-1966, aged 85Italian painterFuturism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1631-12]

MOMA, Museum of Modern Art, 11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019, USA188 x 259  

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Balla painted this amusing study of a skittering dachshund and the staccato steps of his or her owner in May 1912 while visiting one of his students, the Contessa Nerazzini, at Montepulciano, near Siena.

The lively background, with its vibrating and contrasting streaks of pink and green, is said to represent the white dust of the Tuscan countryside shimmering under the bright summer sun.

The feet of the woman, the leash, and the dog’s body from nose to tail are all blurred and repeated. To enhance the impression of speed, Balla painted the ground using diagonal lines and placed his signature and the date at a dynamic angle. This rhythmic gesture also extends to the frame, which both contains and continues the composition.
[Source: albrightknox.org]
Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash1912Oil/CanvasAbstract
Balla, Giacomo1871-1958, aged 77Italian painterFuturism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1631-13]

Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York90 x 110  
Dancer at Pigalle marked a dramatic departure for Severini as he began to move away from recognisable, if fragmented, representation to severely abstracted imagery.

The shift from an identifiable subject was at the forefront of avant-garde aesthetics. However, Severini maintained a fluidity that is at once abstracted, yet preserves the vestiges of the figure.
[Source: getd.libs.uga.edu]

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Dancer at Pigalle1912Oil/Gesso/Sequins/CanvasboardAbstract
Severni, Gino1883-1966, aged 83Italian painterFuturism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1631-14]

Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland69 x 50  

Image source: tate.org.uk
From its radical beginnings to its final fascist incarnation, Italian Futurism shocked the world, but no single work exemplified the movement than this sculpture by one of its leading lights: Umberto Boccioni.

Starting out as a painter, Boccioni turned to working in three dimensions after a 1913 trip to Paris in which he toured the studios of several avant-garde sculptors of the period, such as Constantin Brancusi, Raymond Duchamp-Villon and Alexander Archipenko.

Boccioni synthesised their ideas into this dynamic masterpiece, which depicts a striding figure. The piece was originally created in plaster and wasn’t cast in its bronze until 1931, well after the artist’s death in 1916 as a member of an Italian artillery regiment during World War I.
[Source: tate.org.uk]
Unique Forms of Continuity in Space1913BronzeSculpture
Boccioni, Umberto1882-1916, aged 34Italian painterFuturism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1631-20]

Tate Galleries, Millbank, Westminster, London SW1P 4RG UK118 x 88 x 37  

Image source: timeout.com
Born in Romania, Brancusi was a sort of proto-minimalist, Brancusi took forms from nature and streamlined them into abstract representations.

This iconic piece is a portrait of his model and lover, Margit Pogány, a Hungarian art student he met in Paris in 1910. The first iteration was carved in marble, followed by a plaster copy from which this bronze was made. The plaster itself was exhibited in New York at the legendary Armory Show of 1913, where critics mocked and pilloried it.

But it was the most reproduced piece in the show. Brancusi worked on various versions of Mlle Pogany for some twenty years.
[Source: timeout.com]
Mlle Pogany1913BronzeSculpture
Brancusi, Constantin1876-1957, aged 80Romanian sculptorFuturism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1631-15]

The Italian-born Joseph Stella wrote that Coney Island presented the most intense arabesque … [of the] surging crowd and the revolving machines generating … violent, dangerous pleasures.

This cacophony of electric lights, gyrating dancers, and radiating steel beams of the Ferris wheel and roller coasters was his first American subject. Fragments of honky-tonk signs make reference to the resort’s popular attractions, such as Steeplechase Park and Feltman’s restaurant, where the hotdog was invented.
[Source: artgallery.yale.edu]

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras1913-4Oil/CanvasAbstract
Stella, Joseph1877-1946, aged 69Italian/American painterFuturism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1631-16]

Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven CT USA196 x 215  

Image source: stanford.edu
Sant’Elia produced a group of these drawings called Città Nuova (“New City”) in May 1914 at an exhibition of the Nuove Tendenze group, of which he was a member.

Although Sant’Elia’s ideas were Futuristic, it has been questioned whether he was actually a member of the group.
[Source: britannica.com]
Città Nuova, La1914Pencil/Ink/PaperLandscape
Sant’Elia, Antonio1888-1916, aged 28Italian ArchitectFuturism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1631-17]

Musei Civici, Como, Italy52 x 53  
Following World War I, Futurism gained new members and assumed different formal qualities, including those of arte meccanica (machine aesthetics).

While mechanized figures and forms had appeared earlier (in the art of Fortunato Depero, for example), Ivo Pannaggi and Vinicio Paladini articulated the principles of this idiom in their 1922 “Manifesto of Futurist Mechanical Art.” Enrico Prampolini also adopted a mechanical language at this time, and he subsequently expanded and signed the manifesto, publishing it in his journal Noi in 1923.

Pannaggi’s Speeding Train (1922) demonstrates the Futurists’ sustained interest in the locomotive as a symbol of modernity, motion, and the machine.

The painting depicts a powerful train barreling toward the viewer at a diagonal angle. Speeding Train suggests the total sensory experience of observing the daily trains passing through the small coastal towns along the Adriatic (the blur of the moving cars, the clamorous noise of the motor, the ear-splitting scream of the whistle).
[Source: guggenheim.org]

Image source: exhibitions.guggenheim.org
Speeding Train1922Oil/CanvasLandscape
Pannaggi, Ivo1901-1981, aged 80Italian painterFuturism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1631-21]

Fondazione Carima-Museo Palazzo Ricci, Macerata, Italy100 x 120  
An intricately assembled performance piece played out by handmade characters including jugglers, sword swallowers, clowns and animals.

These figures, crafted from a collection of ‘cork, wire, wood, yarn, paper, string, and cloth’, were each assigned a series of movements and manipulated by the artist to perform specific circus acts.

With performances held at various locations in Paris and New York through the mid 1930s, Calder’s circus helped to establish him in avante-garde circles. Jean Cocteau, Joan Miró, Fernand Léger, Piet Mondrian, Le Corbusier, Thomas Wolfe, and André Kertész were among those who saw the celebrated Cirque Calder over the years.
[Source: contemporaryperformance.com]

Image source: contemporaryperformance.com
Calder’s Circus1926-1931cork, wire, wood, yarn, paper, string, and clothSculpture
Calder, Alexander1898-1967, aged 69American sculptorFuturism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms):[1631-18]

Whitney Museum of American Art, NY

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Aeropittura (Aeropainting) was a major expression of the second generation of Italian Futurism, from 1929 through the early 1940s. The technology and excitement of flight, directly experienced by most aeropainters, offered aeroplanes and aerial landscape as new subject matter.

Aeropainting was surprisingly varied in subject matter and treatment, including realism (especially in works of propaganda), abstraction, dynamism, quiet Umbrian landscapes, portraits of Benito Mussolini, devotional religious paintings, and decorative art.
[Source: Wikimedia commons]
Aerial Portrait of Mussolini (Aeroritratto di Mussolini aviatore)1930Oil/CanvasPortrait/Landscape
Ambrosi, Alfredo1901-1945, aged 44Italian painterFuturism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1631-22]

Private collection0  
This monumental nude seems to float in space. Although cast in lead, the smooth, grayish-blue surface actually enhances the form’s light, buoyant appearance.

Perched delicately on her right hip, the figure’s extended legs and left arm create a strong horizontal, echoed in the plinth beneath her. Resting on an imaginary centre of gravity, she teeters between immobility and movement, suspension and flight.

The nude’s face and figure are idealised, rather than a portrait of an individual, it is a personification of air.
[Source: getty.edu]

Image source: getty.edu
Maillol, Aristide1861-1944, aged 83French scultorFuturism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1631-19]

J Paul Getty Museum
To Italian-born Joseph Stella, who immigrated to New York at the age of nineteen, New York City was a nexus of frenetic, form-shattering power.

In the engineering marvel of the Brooklyn Bridge, which he first depicted in 1918 and returned to throughout his career, he found a contemporary technological monument that embodied the modern human spirit.

Here, Stella portrays the bridge with a linear dynamism borrowed from Italian Futurism. He captures the dizzying height and awesome scale of the bridge from a series of fractured perspectives, combining dramatic views of radiating cables, stone masonry, cityscapes, and night sky.

The large scale of the work—it is nearly six feet tall—conjures a Renaissance altar, while the Gothic style of the massive pointed arches evokes medieval churches.

By combining contemporary architecture and historical allusions, Stella transformed the Brooklyn Bridge into a twentieth-century symbol of divinity, the quintessence of modern life and the Machine Age.
[Source: whitney.org]

Image source: artsandculture.google.com
Brooklyn Bridge, The1939Oil/CanvasLandscape
Stella, Joseph  1877 – 1946, aged 69immigrant American painterFuturism
Whitney Museum of American Art, 99 Gansevoort St, New York, NY 10014, USA178 x 107  

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