Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University
Italian poet and propagandist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876-1944):
It is from Italy that we now establish Futurism with this manifesto of overwhelming and burning violence, because we want to free this country from its fetid gangrene of professors, archaeologists, antiquarians and rhetoricians. (front page, Le Figaro 20 Feb. 1909)
Futurism (in Italian Futurismo, Russian Futurism) was an early 20th-century artistic movement that centered in Italy and emphasized the dynamism, speed, energy, and power of the machine and the vitality, change, and restlessness of modern life in general. The most significant results of the movement were in the visual arts and poetry. And they wrote lots of manifestos.
Futurism was first announced on Feb. 20, 1909, when the Paris newspaper Le Figaro published a manifesto by the Italian poet and editor Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. The name Futurism, coined by Marinetti, reflected his emphasis on discarding what he conceived to be the static and irrelevant art of the past and celebrating change, originality, and innovation in culture and society. Marinetti’s manifesto glorified the new technology of the automobile and the beauty of its speed, power, and movement. He exalted violence and conflict and called for the sweeping repudiation of traditional cultural, social, and political values and the destruction of such cultural institutions as museums and libraries. The manifesto’s rhetoric was passionately bombastic; its tone was aggressive and inflammatory and was purposely intended to inspire public anger and amazement, to arouse controversy, and to attract widespread attention.
Italian Futurism challenged the dominance of Paris. It rejected historical tradition, and glorified patriotism, militarism, and war as “the only true hygiene of the world.” Manifestos announced the intention of the movement to destroy museums and libraries, fight against moralism, feminism, and all utilitarian cowardice.
The Futurists had a passion for speed, power, new machines, technology, the dynamism of the new city. Their work seeks to capture not a fixed moment but dynamic sensation itself. They extended divisionist technique by studying photographic sequential movement.
Futurists tended to demonstrate politically for Italy to join the war in 1914-1915. But the mechanized slaughter of WWI made Futurism’s embrace of the machine difficult to sustain.
Gino Severini. Dynamism of a Dancer. 1912.
Umberto Boccioni. Dynamism of a Cyclist. 1913.
Boccioni explored the abstract, post-divisionist effects of light. He used color for a dramatic interaction between objects and space, which he called “dynamic abstraction.”
Boccioni Unique Forms of Continuity in Space. 1913.
“Let us discard the finite line and the closed form statue. Let us tear the body open.”
Umberto Boccioni. Head + Light + Surroundings. 1916.
Boccioni died falling from a speeding horse.
Carlo Carrà. Interventionist Demonstration. 1914.
Giacomo Balla. Dynamism of Dog on a Leash. 1912.
Giacomo Balla. Rhythm of a Violinist. 1912.
Dempsey, Amy. Art in the Modern Era: A Guide to Styles, Schools & Movements. NY: Harry N. Abrams Inc., Pub., 2002.
Futurism and the Futurists. http://www.futurism.org.uk/.