The Modern World During and After the World Wars, C. 1914–1960

Early Twentieth-Century Avant-Garde

What is Futurism?

Futurism was an energetic Italian art movement started by the poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876–1944) who wrote the first Futurist manifesto in Le Figaro, a French newspaper, in 1909. Marinetti wanted Futurism to be a wide-reaching movement that embraced the speed and power of modern industrialism. The goal was to reject the past and to modernize contemporary culture—violently if necessary. Visually, Futurism would not have existed without Cubism, and many Futurist paintings feature fragmented forms and geometric near-abstraction; however, the Futurists tried to distance themselves from this inheritance. Painters associated with Futurism include Umberto Boccioni (1882–1916), Gino Severini (1883–1966), and Carlo Carra (18811916). The Futurists created abstract images of machines and placed an emphasis on movement. Giacomo Balla’s Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (Leash in Motion) (1912) depicts a small dog with blurry legs and a blurry tail made up of quickly dashed, repeated brushstrokes. Umberto Boccioni incorporated sculpture into the Futurist repertoire with works such as Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913). This flowing, abstract sculpture was cast in bronze and creates an interplay between two and three-dimensional space as a formidable figure with outstretched legs (and no arms) strides forward on a horizontal plane. Futurism changed after World War I; Boccioni was killed after being thrown from his horse during a military exercise and the landscape of Europe, both physically and artistically, was no longer the same.


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