- Italian Futurism: An Introduction
- Futurist Free Word Painting
- Umberto Boccioni and the Futurist City
- Umberto Boccioni, Unique Forms of Continuity in Space
- Umberto Boccioni, "Dynamism of a Soccer Player"
- Gino Severini, Dynamic Hieroglyph of the Bal Tabarin
- Giacomo Balla, Street Light
- Carlo Carrà, Funeral of the Anarchist Galli
- Duchamp-Villon, Horse
- War and dynamism
- 1913 | Schiess-Dusseldorf by Ludwig Hohlwein
- Tate: 1914 & 1915
- British Art and Literature During WWI
Italian Futurism: An Introduction
Can you imagine being so enthusiastic about technology that you name your daughter Propeller? Today we take most technological advances for granted, but at the turn of the
last century, innovations like electricity, x-rays, radio waves, automobiles and airplanes were extremely exciting. Italy lagged Britain, France, Germany, and the United States in the pace of its industrial development. Culturally speaking, the country’s artistic reputation was grounded in Ancient, Renaissance and Baroque art and culture. Simply put, Italy represented the past.
In the early 1900s, a group of young and rebellious Italian writers and artists emerged determined to celebrate industrialization. They were frustrated by Italy’s declining status and believed that the “Machine Age” would result in an entirely new world order and even a renewed consciousness.
Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the ringleader of this group, called the movement Futurism. Its members sought to capture the idea of modernity, the sensations and aesthetics of speed, movement, and industrial development.
Marinetti launched Futurism in 1909 with the publication his “Futurist manifesto” on the front page of the French newspaper Le Figaro. The manifesto set a fiery tone. In it Marinetti lashed out against cultural tradition (passatismo, in Italian) and called for the destruction of museums, libraries, and feminism. Futurism quickly grew into an international movement and its participants issued additional manifestos for nearly every type of art: painting, sculpture, architecture, music, photography, cinema—even clothing.
The Futurist painters—Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Luigi Russolo, Gino Severini, and Giacomo Balla—signed their first manifesto in 1910 (the last named his daughter Elica—Propeller!). Futurist painting had first looked to the color and the optical experiments of the late 19th century, but in the fall of 1911, Marinetti and the Futurist painters visited the Salon d’Automne in Paris and saw Cubism in person for the first time. Cubism had an immediate impact that can be seen in Boccioni’sMateria of 1912 for example. Nevertheless, the Futurists declared their work to be completely original.
Dynamism of Bodies in Motion
The Futurists were particularly excited by the works of late 19th-century scientist and photographer Étienne-Jules Marey, whose chronophotographic (time-based) studies depicted the mechanics of animal and human movement.
A precursor to cinema, Marey’s innovative experiments with time-lapse photography were especially influential for Balla. In his painting Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash, the artist playfully renders the dog's (and dog walker's) feet as continuous movements through space over time.
Entranced by the idea of the “dynamic,” the Futurists sought to represent an object’s sensations, rhythms and movements in their images, poems and manifestos. Such characteristics are beautifully expressed in Boccioni’s most iconic masterpiece, Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (see above).
The choice of shiny bronze lends a mechanized quality to Boccioni's sculpture, so here is the Futurists’ ideal combination of human and machine. The figure’s pose is at once graceful and forceful, and despite their adamant rejection of classical arts, it is also very similar to the Nike of Samothrace.
Politics & War
Futurism was one of the most politicized art movements of the twentieth century. It merged artistic and political agendas in order to propel change in Italy and across Europe. The Futurists would hold what they called serate futuriste, or Futurist evenings, where they would recite poems and display art, while also shouting politically charged rhetoric at the audience in the hope of inciting riot. They believed that agitation and destruction would end the status quo and allow for the regeneration of a stronger, energized Italy.
These positions led the Futurists to support the coming war, and like most of the group’s members, leading painter Boccioni enlisted in the army during World War I. He was trampled to death after falling from a horse during training. After the war, the members’ intense nationalism led to an alliance with Benito Mussolini and his National Fascist Party. Although Futurism continued to develop new areas of focus (aeropittura, for example) and attracted new members—the so-called “second generation” of Futurist artists—the movement’s strong ties to Fascism has complicated the study of this historically significant art.
Essay by Emily Casden
Want to join the conversation?
- So why did Marinetti call for the destruction of feminism? He seemed to resent the past ways of doing things, and female empowerment is a pretty modern idea historically.(22 votes)
- In fact, the traditional Italian art has always been based on the praise of the woman and her body, the romanticized love, and as the futurists' goal was to destroy the tradition, they also attacked "the woman". Here is a quote from a dissertation I found: "In Marinetti's case, the object is not woman but a machine; likewise, the direction that his attention takes is to praise the beauty and nature of technology. To accomplish this, Marinetti subsequently attacks, vilifies, and destroys that which is in opposition to his object of praise.", and also: "Although Marinetti's critiques against Amore do not directly attack women or mothers, he does critique the role women play (both symbolically and culturally) within the language and poetic systems of the early twentieth century."
That is also why, paradoxically, he says in one of his manifests "our best allies are the suffragettes, because the more rights and powers they win for woman, the more will she be deprived of Amore, and by so much will she cease to be a magnet for sentimental passion or lust". Now I quote the same dissertation: "Although the antagonistic attitude Marinetti takes against women and the suffragettes movement highlights why many critics dismiss Futurism as misogynistic, Marinetti's separation of women's bodies from the idealized and unrepresentable pedestal of "Woman" sounds surprisingly progressive for his culture and his time-certainly different from his call to "destroy feminism." This support for women's rights, however, is largely strategic. Marinetti considers the suffragettes movement "childish" and "ridiculous" and chooses to defend them for the simple reason that they will "involuntarily help us to destroy that grand foolishness, made up of corruption and banality, to which parliamentarianism is now reduced"" All quotes from Ghost in the Machine: Sound and Technology in Twentieth-Century Literature, A Dissertation by Michael Heumann, 1998; http://thelibrary.hauntedink.com/ghostinthemachine/ch3.html(13 votes)
- How long did "dynamism" last? My understanding is that Surrealism encroached upon Futurism, sending it into oblivion.(3 votes)
- Marinetti was a dumb dude, Scientists need those museums and libraries to develop, research and store old samples from times past. Why would he advocate for destruction of useful information? Is it because he wasn't a scientist himself?(2 votes)
- Maybe you are taking this thing way too literally.(1 vote)
- How did Futurist paintings differ before and after the impact of Cubism?(1 vote)
- So Nice the Detail is just Magnificent.(2 votes)
- That's a great comment. It belongs in the Tips and Thanks section, where it can be seen and appreciated by those who made the video.(0 votes)
- In the third paragraph, how did Filippo Tommaso Marintetti , the ringleader of this group come up with the idea of calling the movement Futurism? Did he have another idea instead of the word Futurism?(1 vote)
- what impact did futurism have on history?(1 vote)
- futurism had an impact on history because it changed the way people felt about history.(1 vote)
- Walter Benjamin describes the futurist connection to fascism as "aestheticizing politics," what does this mean? How is it different from politicizing aesthetics?(1 vote)
- he was representing it. it is different because politicizing means also criticizing .(1 vote)
- What is the difference between futurism and vorticism??(1 vote)
- Vorticism could be in any object, women, romance, daily life. Futurism focus on noise, machine and movement and also against feminism , romance and other traditional painting theme or objects from Renaissance and Baroque ,etc.(1 vote)
- Are there any examples of Futurism art from the 21st century?(0 votes)
- As noted in the article, futurism died in 1944. It seems to have been eclipsed as the center of the art world moved away from central and southern Europe.(0 votes)