Art Styles: Futurism

"States of Mind" futurist painting by Umberto BoccioniThe Futurism movement originated in Italy as an avant-garde art movement that took technology, speed and modernity as its inspiration. No other Modern Art faction in the annals of art history has been so bold and aggressive as the Futurism movement that rose out of the heart of Italy. Openly and piercingly these artist declared their discontentment with their modern society. They denounced traditional conventionalism demanded social changes and took liberty at pointing out all of the faults that would disband what they had viewed as a corrupt government.

Futurism came into being with the appearance of a manifesto published by the poet Filippo Marinetti on the front page of the February 20, 1909, issue of Le Figaro. It was the very first manifesto of this kind. In it Marinetti expressed a passionate loathing of everything old, especially political and artistic tradition. "We want no part of it, the past", he wrote, "we the young and strong Futurists!" Marinetti summed up the major principles of the Futurists. He and others espoused a love of speed, technology and violence. Futurism was presented as a modernist movement celebrating the technological, future era. The car, the plane, the industrial town were representing the motion in modern life and the technological triumph of man over nature. Marinetti's impassioned polemic immediately attracted the support of young Milanese painters, such as Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrą, and Luigi Russolo. These artists wanted to extend Marinetti's ideas to the visual arts.

"Amored Train" futurist painting by Gino SeveriniThe painters Giacomo Balla and Gino Severini (his painting Amored Train is shown here) met Marinetti in 1910 and together with Boccioni, Carrą and Russolo issued the Manifesto of the Futurist Painters. It was couched in the violent and declamatory language of Marinetti's founding manifesto, opening with the words, "The cry of rebellion which we utter associates our ideals with those of the Futurist poets. These ideas were not invented by some aesthetic clique. They are an expression of a violent desire, which burns in the veins of every creative artist today. ... We will fight with all our might the fanatical, senseless and snobbish religion of the past, a religion encouraged by the vicious existence of museums. We rebel against that spineless worshipping of old canvases, old statues and old bric-a-brac, against everything which is filthy and worm-ridden and corroded by time. We consider the habitual contempt for everything which is young, new and burning with life to be unjust and even criminal".

The Futurist painters were slow to develop a distinctive style and subject matter. In 1910 and 1911 they used the techniques of Divisionism, breaking light and color down into a field of stippled dots and stripes, which had been originally created by Giovanni Segantini and others. One of the principal exponents of Futurism, Gino Severini was an important link between French and Italian art. Although his most historically significant works were produced before World War I, he had a long career during which he continued to evolve his style, particularly in abstract schemes. Severini was the first to come into contact with Cubism and following a visit to Paris in 1911 the Futurist painters adopted the methods of the Cubists. Cubism offered them a means of analyzing energy in paintings and expressing dynamism.

The Futurists practiced in every medium of art, including painting, sculpture, ceramics, graphic design, industrial design, interior design, theatre, film, fashion, textiles, literature, music, and architecture.
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