Futurism Art Movement: History, Artists, Artwork

futurism art movementFuturism is an avant-garde art and social movement that originated in Italy in the early 20th century. Futurist movement highlighted the dynamic, speed, energy, and force of machines and the vigor, change, and restlessness of the modern world. The representation of motion and speed is a distinctive feature of futurist art. They specifically followed the idea of universal dynamism, according to which nothing is distinct from its surroundings or from another object.The key focus was to portray a vibrant future vision. As a result, they frequently depicted urban landscapes and cutting-edge transportation options including trains, vehicles, and airplanes. Nearly all areas of the arts, including painting, ceramics, sculpture, graphic design, interior design, theater, film, literature, music, and architecture, were well-known to and practiced by futurists.

During the second decade of the twentieth century, the movement’s impact spread over the majority of Europe, most notably to the Russian avant garde movement. Most of the futurism movement’s impact and activity occurred between 1909 and 1914, although Marinetti revived it after World War I was over. This renaissance attracted new artists, who came to be regarded as the second generation of Futurists. Futurist ideas were applied by artists in Britain, the United States, and Japan, and Futurist works were presented across Europe. Russian Futurism is often regarded as a distinct movement, despite the fact that several Russian Futurists participated in the preceding Italian movement. Futurism foreshadowed Art Deco’s aesthetics and influenced Dada and German Expressionism.

Major famous futurist artists include: Umberto Boccioni who was among the best futurist painters and sculptors, as well as a leading theorist of the Futurist Art Movement; Giacomo Balla, a painter, caricaturist, poet and designer; Carlo Carrà who was one of the leading figures of Italian futurism, Gino Severini who was an Italian painter, mosaicist, writer, and set designer; and Antonio Sant’Elia who was an Italian architect.

Major artworks associated with Futurism art Movement include: The Cyclist by Natalia Goncharova, Dancer at Pigalle by Gino Severini, Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash by Giacomo Balla, Funeral of the Anarchist Galli by Carlo Carrà, and The City Rises by Umberto Boccioni.

Boccioni, the most gifted artist in the group, and Sant’Elia both died in 1916 while serving in the military. The death of Boccioni, along with the increase of the group’s staff and the sobering reality of World War I’s destruction, essentially ended the Futurist movement as a significant historical force in the visual arts.

Futurism influenced several other art movements of the twentieth century, including Art Deco, Vorticism, Constructivism, Surrealism, Dada, Neo-Futurism and the Grosvenor School linocut artists. The literary genre of cyberpunk, in which technology is frequently seen critically, is one of the results of futurism.

History of The Futurism art movement

The Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti wrote “Manifesto del Futurismo” (the “manifesto of Futurism”) in the Paris newspaper Le Figaro in 1909, which is when the name “Futurism” was first used. The Futurist movement, which demanded a full repudiation of the past, particularly artistic and political traditions, was effectively launched by Marinetti’s manifesto. At reference to the famous ancient Greek artwork on exhibit in the Louvre, Marinetti said that “a roaring motor automobile is more beautiful than the Winged Victory of Samothrace.” Futurism ultimately became a significant influence in the art world and a legitimate social movement.

Futurism was essentially ended by World War I. Umberto Boccioni and Antonio Sant’Elia, two of the movement’s most prominent figures, both passed away in 1916 while serving in the military. Italian Futurism was a relatively transient artistic style, but it served as an influence for later movements like Dada and German Expressionism.

Beginnings of The Futurism Art Movement (1909)

The Futurist Manifesto, written by the poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, was published in February 1909, marking the beginning of futurisms’ alteration of Italian culture. The manifesto demanded the death of outdated beliefs and institutions and the celebration of industry, development, and automation. The group released this manifesto as the first of several. Artists like Umberto Boccioni, Giacomo Balla, Gino Severini, and Carlo Carrà supported Marinetti’s theories because they thought they could be applied to modern art that probed the characteristics of space and motion. Initially established in Milan, the movement swiftly grew to include Turin and Naples. In the years that followed, Marinetti actively pushed the movement overseas.

The group’s first public exhibition was held in 1911 at the Milanese Esposizione di Mostra d’Arte Libera (Exhibition of Free Art). They were driven not just by a desire to advance the new movement but also by a desire to generate money for the Casa di Lavoro (House of Work), which provided assistance to the city’s underprivileged and jobless. “All those who desire to proclaim something new, that is to keep clear from imitations, derivations, and falsifications,” was the call offered by the show to submit work. Bright colors and brushstrokes that resembled thread were common features in several of the paintings on show. Images showed a shattered and fragmented view of space with an emphasis on technology, speed, and violence. One of the paintings was Boccioni’s The City Rises (1910), which was shown under the original title Il lavoro (Work). Due to its sophisticated, Cubist-influenced style, this painting might lay claim to being the first Futurist artwork. While many applauded the novel content, French literary and aesthetic experts voiced disapproval.

The Italian ensemble took a while to establish their own style. Prior to the movement’s formation, its participants had used a variety of Post-Impressionism-inspired techniques, and they continued to do so. Severini and Boccioni visited Balla’s studio in 1901 when they were studying in Rome, where he exposed them to divisionism. Divisionism was derived from Georges Seurat’s color theory and pointillism. The picture was divided into stippled dots and stripes of pure color, which interacted optically to produce the final piece. As Henry Adam, an art critic, observes, “in keeping with their Post-Impressionist forebears, utilised dazzling, electric, prismatic hues,” the use of strong color became crucial to the Futurists.

Pre-War Developments (1912-1914)

The group presented several of these early pieces at the First Exhibition of Futurist Painting at the Bernheim-Jeune gallery in Paris in 1912, which helped bring futurism to the notice of a larger audience. The style “provoked debate that reached across every level of urban culture, from elite literary reviews to mass circulation newspapers, in France, England, Germany, and Russia,” according to art historian Lawrence Raney. Later, the display went on tour and stopped in cities including London, Berlin, and Brussels.

The extension of Futurism into art, architecture, and music during the years 1913–1914 is notable. With his sculpture Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913), Boccioni utilized sculpture to further express the energy of the Futurist movement and to depict concepts of the mechanical body. Later, Luigi Russolo created the manifesto The Art of Noises after switching from painting to making musical instruments (1913). In 1914, inventive architect Antonio Sant’Elia was the first to join the movement, and in the same year, Marinetti released the futurist poetry Zang Tumb Tuuum: Adrianople October (1914).

Futurist Monthly Magazine
Futurist Monthly Magazine

Despite all of this effort, the group had started to split apart, indicating the end of the movement as a whole. Despite the start of World War I in 1914, Italy stayed neutral until 1915. During the intermission, the conversation shifted from art to war as Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Umberto Boccioni, and other futurists used their gatherings and performances to stir up anti-Austrian feelings and make fervent appeals for military action.

Major Developments of The Futurism Art Movement

Futurist Painting and sculpture

A number of young painters in Milan were inspired by Marinetti’s manifesto to incorporate futurist concepts into their works of art. In 1910, Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Luigi Russolo, Giacomo Balla, and Gino Severini issued a manifesto of futurist painting . They proclaimed their contempt for traditional artistic traditions and, like Marinetti, extolled the virtues of creativity.

Futurists wanted to depict the object’s motion, therefore this is why their works frequently feature rhythmic spatial repetitions of an object’s outlines as they move across space. The result is similar to taking numerous photos of a moving item. An illustration is Balla’s Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (1912), which shows the legs of a trotting dachshund as a jumble of various pictures.

Giacomo Balla - Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (1912)
Giacomo Balla – Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (1912)

In the spring of 1912, Boccioni published a manifesto outlining his interest in sculpting. The two sculptures; Development of a Bottle in Space (1912), in which he depicted both the interior and outside contours of a bottle; and Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913); are said to be where he most fully fulfilled his beliefs.

Umberto Boccioni - Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913)
Umberto Boccioni – Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913)


In order to depict the fast-paced action of modern life, futurist painters tried to portray movement, or universal dynamism, in their works. The Manifesto of Futurist Painters (1910) notes that artists believe that speed and modernity are synonymous “must take in the tangible wonders of modern life, such as the world’s iron web of quick communications, the transatlantic liners, the dreadnoughts, those amazing flights that crisscross our skies, the tremendous bravery of our submarine navigators, and the spasmodic struggle to conquer the uncharted.

Fracturing of the picture, rapid brushstrokes, compositional turbulence, and receding or emerging shapes were often used to convey dynamics. As a result, items that were both moving quickly and using modern technology were often included in futurist art, such as automobiles like Russolo’s Dynamism of an Automobile (1912–13) or cyclists like Boccioni’s Dynamism of a Cyclist (1913).

Umberto Boccionis Dynamism of a Cyclist (1913)
Umberto Boccionis Dynamism of a Cyclist (1913)

Futurist Music

The invention of new musical instruments as well as music theory and composition were influenced by futurist ideas. The Manifesto of Futurist Musicians, the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Music, and The Destruction of Quadrature, all released in 1910, 1911, and 1912, respectively, demonstrate his contributions to avant-garde music theory. Futurist musicians promoted breaking away from the prevalent Italian operatic heritage as well as standard academic music instruction. Another significant figure in the literature of music theory is Luigi Russolo. The Art of Noises, a groundbreaking book by Russolo, was released in 1913. In it, Russolo investigates a brand-new sonic palette that incorporates the noises and sounds present in the metropolitan environment.

Luigi Russolo in 1913 with his mechanical orchestra
Luigi Russolo in 1913 with his mechanical orchestra

The new instruments that brothers Luigi and Antonio Russolo created are known as intonarumori. These were acoustic noise-generating devices that gave the artist control over the dynamics and pitch of various sounds.

Futurist literature

Literature Futurism was a leading avant-garde movement in poetry and literature. The most prized written form, the book, was mocked by the futurists in their subversive style. The seven guiding principles of futurist literature were intuition, analogy, irony, eradication of syntax, metrical reform, onomatopoeia, and essential/synthetic lyricism. The concept of the language of the modern age was developed by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in his manifesto Destruction of Syntax-Wireless Imagination-Words-in-Freedom.

The title of F.T. Marinettis Zang Tumb Tuuum - Adrianople October (1914)
The title of F.T. Marinettis Zang Tumb Tuuum – Adrianople October (1914)

Futurism in film

The new creative mediums of photography and cinema were quite familiar to the futurists. Japanese culture is still heavily influenced by Marinetti’s ideas, particularly his “dreamt-of metallization of the human body,” which can be seen in manga, anime, and the works of artists like Tetsuo (lit. “Ironman” films) director Shinya Tsukamoto. From 1916 through 1919, Italian avant-garde film saw its futurist era. Anti-naturalism and the aesthetics of stark contrast between black and white geometrized surfaces define the futurist cinema. The sole film from this era still in existence is Thas, which Anton Giulio Bragaglia directed in 1917. Cyberpunk, a relatively recent literary genre that examines technology critically, is frequently associated with the concepts of futurists.

Anton Giulio Bragaglia, Thais, silent film, 1917, Cinematheque Francaise, Paris
Anton Giulio Bragaglia, Thais, silent film, 1917, Cinematheque Francaise, Paris

Futurist architecture

One of the key areas for the futurist experiment was architecture. Architecture explicitly included trends towards broader social transformation, mass emancipation, and the reconfiguration of urban and rural areas. The Manifesto of Futurist Architecture, written by Antonio Sant’Elia and published in 1914, is the earliest and most important futurist manifesto in the realm of architecture.

Fritz Lang, Metropolis, silent film, 1927, set design
Fritz Lang, Metropolis, silent film, 1927, set design

The most significant architect futurist thinker was Antonio Sant’Elia. In reference to the ideas of Vitruvius, Vignola, and Sansovino, the manifesto he produced outlined the value and aesthetic framework of futurist architecture, which is founded on discontinuity. Sant’Elia believed that the load of architectural history and ingrained building patterns prevented the development of a new architectural expression. Modernity, utility, and affordability needed for contemporary housing must be the factors dictating architectural trends.

Second-generation and the end of Futurism art movement

Before Futurism totally vanished, it briefly reappeared, this time with an emphasis on aeromobilism rather than automobilism, or the replacement of their obsession of a roaring automobile with a flying airplane. This period was referred to as the second generation futurism which was between 1929 to 1944.

The paintings during this period show aerial battles and cinematic views of airplanes, both of which symbolize a technology that gave Italy a tremendous deal of pride. Both the cityscape of Rome and aeropittura (aerial painting) prominently depict biplanes. The Futurists and their fascist allies fantasized about a contemporary, industrialized Italy while yearning for the glory of ancient Rome. Futurism as a coherent and organized artistic movement is now regarded as extinct, having died out in 1944 with the death of its leader Marinetti.

Characteristics of the Futurism Art Movement

Major characteristics of futurism include: numerous manifestos, glorification of war, Typographical Revolution, Intensive New Language, fascist ideology, Relationship with the Past, Fascination with speed, and modernization processes.

Numerous Manifestos

Manifestos served as an essential medium for futurists to communicate with a larger audience. These texts were successful in introducing society to the Futurists’ ideals, whether they were published as distinct publications or in the daily press. The publication of a manifesto stands out as a significant aspect of this group’s activity, in addition to conducting futurist evenings and exhibitions. Manifestos have been published in the arts of writing, film, music, sculpture, and painting. A positive artistic programme was missing from the founding manifesto, which the Futurists strove to include in their subsequent Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting.

Glorification of war

The war was categorically endorsed by the futurists. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti described war as the only hygiene in the world in the Futurist Manifesto, which was released in 1909. Futurists believed that a bloody revolution was required. According to their beliefs, that wave of violence was intended to lift the weight of the legacy of both Christian and Roman culture in order to pave the way for the establishment of a new society. The foundation of that society would be modernity and scientific advancement, and for those goals to be met, society cannot be tainted by the past.

Gino Severini, Cannons in action, 1915
Gino Severini, Cannons in action, 1915

The concept of racial harmony was also very important to the Futurists. Italian nationalism was a component of the larger political atmosphere in Europe, which in this case principally pertained to the multinational Austria-Hungary from which Italians and Italian land were to be freed. There, violence is praised as a justifiable strategy for conflict. In the early years of World War One, a lot of futurists passed away.

Typographical Revolution

Words in Freedom, a concept by Marinetti, created a unique dynamic between written and visual content. Through the concept of visual poetry, these two contents are no longer in conflict but rather are joined. New typographic techniques allowed the poem’s form to take on a wholly unorthodox appearance. The reader must now look both “at” and “through” the printed text, which required a shift not only in the visual domain but also in the reader’s stance. In his 1932 book Words in Futurist, Olfactory, Tactile, Thermal Freedom, Tullio d’Albisola combined the novel aspects of poetry’s overall mental-empirical experience with the tactile qualities of the metal on which the text was printed, the smell of the ink used at the time, and the visual capacity of the text.

Tullio d Albisola and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, book with 26 lithographs and typographic designs
Tullio d Albisola and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, book with 26 lithographs and typographic designs

Intensive New Language

The concept of the language of the modern age was developed by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in his manifesto Destruction of Syntax-Wireless Imagination-Words-in-Freedom. The new futurist language had to be set up from the beginning in a precise, understandable, and cost-effective manner. Such a language uses mathematical and musical symbols instead of adjectives and adverbs. The infinitive form of verbs and the frequent usage of onomatopoeia would be the foundation of the futurist language’s dynamics.

Fascist ideology

The Futurists did not all share the same ideological stance. The nationalist pro-fascist majority was significantly larger than the socialist and anarchist currents. Many prominent Futurist painters passed away in the early years of the war as a result of the glorification of combat seen in their work. The Futurist Political Party was founded by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in 1918, just before the First World War came to a close. That group quickly assimilated into Mussolini’s Italian Fascism of Combat. The Fascist Manifesto, also known as The Manifesto of the Italian Fasces of Combat, is written by Marinetti and Alceste De Ambris, two of Mussolini’s most notable allies. Marinetti never fully achieved his vision of a futuristic artist as a framework for the growth of Italian post-war culture.

Relationship with the Past

Futurists were fiercely critical of the past and cultural heritage in general. They believed that dwelling on the past was a hindrance to attaining one’s full social potential in the present. They were particularly hostile to the museum establishment, which they argued should not exist. They did not look at art history through the lens of achieving continuity. The main exceptions were the Cubists and Post-Impressionists, whose work the Futurists admired and influenced their aesthetic style tremendously.

Fascination with speed

Futurists stressed speed as a symbol of the first decades of the twentieth century’s technical innovation and development. The bustle of city streets, the rapid industrial activity, and the growing number of bicycles and cars on the roads all reflected this speed. The Futurists recognized archaism and total inadequacy for the current moment in the heritage of cultural history. The Futurists stressed the phenomena of speed as a genuine impulse of the time in which they inhabit.

Luigi Russolo, Dynamism of a Car, 1913
Luigi Russolo, Dynamism of a Car, 1913

Modernization processes

The modernization process shines out as a prominent component of futurist thinking. The concept of modernity may be seen in all parts of futurist creativity and is the most recognized characteristic of Futurism aesthetically. The Futurists were constantly inspired by modernization processes in the fields of industrialization, urban planning, and architecture, as well as the growth of car traffic. The Futurists sought to societal revolution in a broader framework as a movement with greater aspirations than just aesthetic effort. That transformation should have occurred via modernizing the economy and cultural practices on the one hand, and by revolutionary and brutal methods of war on the other, as part of the Fascist political program.

Joseph Stella, Brooklyn Bridge, 1919–20
Joseph Stella, Brooklyn Bridge, 1919–20

Futurism Artists

Major famous futurist artists include: Umberto Boccioni, Giacomo Balla, Carlo Carrà, Gino Severini, and Antonio Sant’Elia.

Umberto Boccioni

Umberto Boccioni
Umberto Boccioni
  • Born: 19 October 1882, Reggio Calabria, Italy
  • Died: 17 August 1916, Verona, Italy
  • Known for: Painter and sculptor
  • Periods: Futurism, Cubism, Neo-Impressionism

From 1898 until 1902, Boccioni received training in the pointillist style of painting at the studio of painter Giacomo Balla. He relocated to Milan in 1907, when he progressively came to be influenced by the poet Filippo Marinetti, who started the Futurist movement and exalted the energy of contemporary technology. As the principal proponent of Futurist art theory, Boccioni applied Marinetti’s literary theories to the visual arts. He and other artists wrote and published the “Manifesto of Futurist Painting” in 1910, urging the portrayal of the violent, mighty, and quick emblems of modern technology.

The first significant Futurist painting by Boccioni, Riot at the Gallery (1909), remained close to pointillism and demonstrated a connection to Futurism primarily through its violent subject matter and dynamic composition. But The City Rises (1910–11), with its depiction of energy, motion, and speed, is a prime example of a Futurist painting. In its crowd scenes, the whirling human forms are repeatedly dissected in a futurist manner, but the rhythmic muscular energy they produce has nothing to do with the futurisms’ religion of the machine.

Umberto Boccioni - The City Rises (1910–11)
Umberto Boccioni – The City Rises (1910–11)

Around 1911–1912, Boccioni got interested in sculpture and is thought to have been influenced by cubism. He released the “Manifesto of Futurist Sculpture” in 1912, which foresaw advancements in contemporary sculpture. In addition to promoting the use of unconventional materials including glass, wood, cement, cloth, and electric lights in sculpture, Boccioni urged for the blending of several materials into a single work of art. The only work that successfully establishes a sculptural setting is Development of a Bottle in Space (1912). Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913), his most well-known piece, is a masterwork of early modern sculpture.

Giacomo Balla

Giacomo Balla
Giacomo Balla
  • Born: 18 July 1871, Turin, Italy
  • Died: 1 March 1958, Rome, Italy
  • Known for: Painter, art teacher and poet
  • Periods: Futurism, Modern art

Balla attended a Turin academy for a limited period of time but had little formal training in the arts. The Milanese poet Filippo Marinetti, who started the literary movement he named Futurism in 1909 as an effort to revive Italian culture by embracing the potential of contemporary science and technology, progressively influenced Balla, Boccioni, and Severini. The “Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting” was issued in 1910 by Balla and other Italian artists.

Balla was a lyrical painter who was unconcerned with contemporary technology or violence, in contrast to most Futurists. For instance, a dynamic representation of light can be found in The Street Light—Study of Light (1909). Despite his distinctive taste in subjects, Balla’s paintings are consistent with Futurism’s interest with the energy of modern life since they give a sense of speed and urgency. Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (1912), one of his best-known pieces, depicts a woman walking a dog on a street practically frame-by-frame. The piece serves as an example of his simultaneity concept, which refers to how motion is rendered by concurrently displaying many features of a moving object. This fascination with recording a single instant in a succession of planes was inspired by cubism, but it was also undoubtedly connected to Balla’s fascination with photography as a medium.

Giacomo Balla - Street Light (1910-1911)
Giacomo Balla – Street Light (1910-1911)

These pieces, which are possibly the most abstract of all Futurist paintings, were created by Balla during World War I in an effort to depict the feeling of motion or velocity using color planes. Long after other Futurist practitioners had given up on the movement after the war, he remained committed to it. During this time, he also experimented with stage design, graphic design, and even acting. In his later years, he gave up his lifelong pursuit of near abstraction and adopted a more conventional aesthetic.

Carlo Carrà

Carlo Carra
Carlo Carra
  • Born: 11 February 1881, Quargnento, Italy
  • Died: 13 April 1966, Milan, Italy
  • Known for: Painter
  • Periods: Futurism, Modern art, Metaphysical painting

Carrà was one of the key figures in the development of Italian Futurism. Carrà met the artists Umberto Boccioni, a painter and sculpture, and poet Filippo Marinetti in 1909, who both persuaded him to join the Futurist Art Movement. He co-wrote the Manifesto of Futurist Painters in 1910 alongside Boccioni, painter and musician Luigi Russolo, and painter and poet Giacomo Balla. In the same year, he also signed the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting, the second in a modernist movement’s historically extensive sequence of manifestos.

Stazione A Milano, a 1910 painting by Carrà, was one of his initial attempts at dynamism. According to the Dynamism painting theory, the subject should appear to be engaged in active activity, which will represent advancement in both society and the arts. The artist depicts in this piece the flurry of activity that surrounds a train station as a train approaches. The human figures in the artwork are reduced to vague forms, although being fairly representational. Light, smoke, and the approaching machine are the three main components of the scene. As great industry marches on in a cloud of fierce fire and smoke, it gives off the impression that mankind is fading into the background.

Stazione a Milano, 1909 - Carlo Carra
Stazione a Milano, 1909 – Carlo Carra

Carrà contributed to one of the most significant avant-garde movements of the early 20th century, and he was one of the primary creative forces behind the visual marvels of Italian Futurism. Indeed, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Umberto Boccioni, Gino Severini, Giacomo Balla, and Luigi Russolo were his contemporaries and he was a key figure in the first wave of Italian Futurism. The subsequent generation of many Italian futurists, such as Fortunato Depero and Benedetta Cappa, received inspiration from Carrà through a combination of his own painting and his influential literature. Concepts, visual vocabulary, and aesthetic trends that Carrà pioneered altered the course of European art. He made numerous contributions to avant-garde society, cementing his reputation as one of the most significant writers of the early 20th century.

Gino Severini

Gino Severini
Gino Severini
  • Born: 7 April 1883, Cortona, Italy
  • Died: 26 February 1966, Paris, France
  • Known for: Painter
  • Periods: Futurism, Cubism, Novecento Italiano, Divisionism, Neoclassicism.

Severini received an invitation to join the Futurist movement from Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and Boccioni after the movement’s manifesto was published in the French daily newspaper Figaro in 1909, marking the movement’s beginning. He supported and co-signed the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting and the Manifesto of the Futurist Painters alongside Balla, Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, and Luigi Russolo. Futurism was the most vehement in its rejection of the past among all modern movements.

Severini, like his Italian contemporaries, used Neo-Impressionism and Cubism to re-create the distinctly modern feelings of energy and movement, declaring that “Futurism, as an intellectual discipline, developed a ‘poetics’ based on actual life, of such a creative potential as to be inexhaustible, and consequently constantly present to those concerned with art.” However, being an Italian painter steeped in the avant-garde milieu of Paris, his paintings were more concerned with expressing the frivolities of city life than they were with pistons and machinery. He had a special fondness for painting nightclub scenes in which he attempted to convey on canvas the human sensations and atmosphere of movement and music, such as the famous Dynamic Hieroglyphic of the Bal Tabarin (1912).

Dancer at Pigalle
Dancer at Pigalle

The distinctive quality of Severini’s futurist works was their emphasis on the poetic and rhythmic pleasures of city living. Severini employed contrasts in color and shape with the main objective of enhancing the ornamental and energetic qualities of his work while allowing the influences of Divisionism, Fauvism, and Cubism to impact his work. He helped a genuinely global Futurism to form in this way.

Antonio Sant’Elia

Antonio Sant Elia
Antonio Sant Elia
  • Born: 30 April 1888, Como, Italy
  • Died: 10 October 1916, Monfalcone, Italy
  • Known for: Architect
  • Periods: Futurism

Antonio Sant’Elia was an architectural visionary most known for his forward-looking plans for a new city, La Citta Nuovo. Massive buildings were united by elevators, bridges, and elevated walkways in this ideal futurist city, which was created between 1912 and 1914. It was a large, multi-level, interconnected urban conurbation with an ever-changing artificial landscape. Sant’Elia was a crucial person in the creation of the Manifesto of Futurist Architecture and an important member of the Italian Futurist architects who contributed to the development of the movement’s thoughts on architecture (1914). His terribly early death in the First World War at the age of 28 ended his professional life. Few of his designs were really implemented as a result, but he is recognized for his deft draftsmanship, audacious renderings, and original perspective on the future.

Antonio Sant’Elia started working as an architect in Milan in 1912, when he was acquainted with the Futurist movement. He created a ton of really inventive sketches and designs for future cities between 1912 and 1914. Città Nuova (“New City”), a collection of these works, was shown in May 1914 during an exhibition of the Nuove Tendenze group, of which he was a member. Sant’Elia had futuristic ideals.  In essence, he was a communist who believed that traditional architectural styles and urban planning approaches ought to be completely abandoned.

The Multi-layered Futurism Citta Nuova New City proposed by Antonio Sant Elia 1914
The Multi-layered Futurism Citta Nuova New City proposed by Antonio Sant Elia 1914

Numerous elements and viewpoints of a very mechanical and industrialized metropolis with skyscrapers and multilevel traffic circulation are depicted in the hundreds of Sant’Elia’s drawings that have survived. In Villa Olmo, close to Como, a selection of these drawings is on permanent display.

Many of Sant’Elia’s works are fundamentally composed of geometric designs, especially cubes and pyramids. Many of his later works are similarly enormous in scale, and he used the buildings’ enormous size as well as their distinguishing designs to physically symbolize their modernity. The Futurists received a lot of inspiration from Sant’Elia. His idea that the city is a mechanized organism with both man and machine at its core is the most renowned of them. Marinetti preserved and promoted Sant’Elia’s legacy during the post-war era, and the second generation of futurists looked up to him as an inspiration.

Futurism Artwork Examples

Major artworks associated with the Futurism Movement include: The Cyclist by Natalia Goncharova, Dancer at Pigalle by Gino Severini, Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash by Giacomo Balla, Funeral of the Anarchist Galli by Carlo Carrà, and The City Rises by Umberto Boccioni.

The Cyclist

The Cyclist
The Cyclist
  • Artist: Natalia Goncharova
  • Year: 1913
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 78 cm × 105 cm (31 in × 41 in)
  • Location: State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg

Goncharova was an influential member of the Moscow female Futurists and a pioneer of the Russian avant-garde. A male person riding a bicycle through a town or city while hunched over it is the eponymous cyclist. The cyclist is standing on a cobblestone street, and behind him is a row of storefronts. Bold lettering on these billboards reflects the Russian Futurists’ preoccupation with print, language, and typography. The words, when translated, are “hat,” “silk,” and “thread,” together with an isolated “Я” that serves as the artist’s signature. These choices likely reflect Goncharova’s passion for textiles and design as well as her early feminist focus on the value of women’s work.

In Cyclist, Goncharova blended elements of cubism and futurism. The work’s futurist components, such as the recurrence of shapes and the displacement of outlines, depict movement. Goncharova’s use of wide strokes adds to the dynamic impact of repeated delineation and multiplied figures. Through the employment of street signs in the background, the painting incorporates urban life, another theme of futurism. The composition’s higher level of visual balance, however, sets it apart from traditional Futurist pieces. In particular, Cyclist contrasts with Umberto Boccioni’s 1913 work Dynamism of a Cyclist, which depicts pedaling in a more abstract and dematerialized way.

The bicycle rider in the image has the Cyrillic characters from the store signage “shifted” onto him or her. Because it points in the opposite direction of the cyclist’s movements, art historian Tim Harte sees the pointing finger on the leftmost storefront as a component of a “visual collision.”

Dancer at Pigalle

Dancer at Pigalle
Dancer at Pigalle
  • Artist: Gino Severini
  • Year: 1912
  • Medium: Oil and sequins on sculpted gesso on artist’s canvasboard
  • Dimensions: 69.2 x 49.8 cm
  • Location: Baltimore Museum of Art.

The dancer, who is shown in the painting’s center, is made out of dynamic vision and flowing cloth. Her center of the image is highlighted by four stage lighting beams, yet her quick rotating motions radiate outward in concentric rings to the periphery of the picture plane. Each of these circular layers captures a different aspect of the venue where she performs by including fragments of photos of performers, instruments, audience members, and shapes resembling musical notes.

Severini, who was born and bred in Italy, emigrated to Paris in 1906 and settled in the Montmartre neighborhood. While there, he made friends with Georges Braque, Juan Gris, and Pablo Picasso and stayed in touch with the Futurists. Boccioni and Carlo Carrà headed to Paris to see the Cubists’ artwork at Severini’s suggestion.  Severini’s use of theater and dance as subject matter distinguished him from other Futurists who celebrated technology. He “established himself apart from traditional Futurist ideology that glorified machinery by employing dancer and dancehall subject matter to produce a mood and sense of ‘collective awareness’ that was associated with current Parisian social life.” He painted more than a hundred pieces featuring dancers between 1910 and 1914.

Severini frequently used three-dimensional components to his paintings, resulting in canvases that were a cross between a painting and a sculpture. In this picture, gesso is used to build up the surface of the piece in specific places and sequins that have been adhered to the painting to capture and focus light. This approach lends the picture a sense of shape and texture, which in some ways makes it more palpable. However, it also produces contradictory sensations for the spectator when the canvas is viewed from various angles and viewpoints.

Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash

Giacomo Balla - Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (1912)
Giacomo Balla – Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (1912)
  • Artist: Giacomo Balla
  • Year: 1912
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 89.8 cm × 109.8 cm
  • Location: Albright–Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York

This charming picture depicts a woman strolling down a city sidewalk with her little black Dachshund. The woman’s feet and the bottom folds of her black dress, as well as the dog’s feet, tail, and floppy ears, are seen many times, each with varied degrees of transparency and opacity, in this extremely close-up photograph. The four parabolic arcs of the thin metal leash that connects the lady to the dog. Contrary to the diagonal lines of the pavement, this repetition and reproduction of the moving parts gives the impression of going ahead.

Balla used chronophotography to create this picture. The chronophotographic pistol was created by Etienne-Jules Marey in 1882, allowing many actions to be captured on camera at once. A similar method can be found in several of Balla’s other paintings, such as Girl Running on Balcony (1912), where the Futurists attempted to depict motion on canvas. Balla adopts the type of topic that Impressionism had been known for, but he singles out only one element—a seemingly random video clip—and transforms it into the centerpiece of the entire composition. Balla’s breakdown of motion into discrete periods of time in Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash probably served as an inspiration for futurist photographer Anton Giulio Bragaglia’s use of photodynamics.

Funeral of the Anarchist Galli

Funeral of the Anarchist Galli
Funeral of the Anarchist Galli
  • Artist: Carlo Carrà
  • Year: 1910–1911
  • Medium: Oil Paint
  • Dimensions: 1.99 m x 2.59 m
  • Location: The Museum of Modern Art

This artwork honors Galli’s burial, an anarchist who died while participating in a strike. His funeral march, which was headed by a group of anarchists, was attended by hundreds of people, including women and children. The parade was ambushed by police on horses, and that scene is shown in the artwork. Carrà attended the funeral and recorded this in his later autobiography: “Unwillingly, I found myself in the middle of it. In front of me, I watched as the pallbearers carried a coffin decorated with red carnations that swayed dangerously. I also witnessed horses running amok and people fighting with sticks and lances. It appeared to me that the corpse could have fallen to the ground at any time, and the horses would have trampled it. I was so moved that as soon as I went home, I drew what I had witnessed “.

The central image of the painting is Galli’s coffin, which is covered in a scarlet cloth and carried high by anarchists who are shown in black. They advance forcefully in the direction of a police cavalry wall on the left. It is clear that Galli is the subject of the painting thanks to the light coming from the coffin, which illuminates the dark, blending mass of people and alludes to his part in starting the present conflict. Strong diagonal lines dominate the upper part of the artwork, which has flagpoles, flags, lances, and cranes that allude to the siege and melee weapons of battle.

Carrà’s original drafts for the piece had a more conventional viewpoint, but after seeing Pablo Picasso’s Cubist paintings in Paris in 1910 with other Futurists, the artist drastically altered the painting to incorporate fracture, employing it to show frenetic movement. The manifesto said “If we depict the many stages of a riot, the cavalry’s raucous assault and the bustling throng with raised fists are transferred onto the canvas in sheaves of lines that correspond to the opposing forces, following the overall rule of violence of the painting. These force-lines must envelop and immerse the viewer in order to make him feel as though he must battle against the people in the image.”

The City Rises

The City Rises
The City Rises
  • Artist: Umberto Boccioni
  • Year: 1910
  • Medium: Oil Paint
  • Dimensions: 199 cm × 301 cm
  • Location: Museum of Modern Art, New York

When this groundbreaking piece was displayed in Milan during the 1911 Mostra d’arte libera, it helped to establish Futurism (Exhibition of free art). The artwork blended the fragmented images of Cubism with the brushstrokes and fuzzy outlines of Post-Impressionism.

It portrays the construction of Milan’s new electrical power plant and was originally named Il lavoro. Three men are attempting to manage and control a massive red horse that is charging forward in the middle of the frame while their muscles are strained. Other horses and employees may be seen in the background. It is suggested that change arises from chaos and that everyone, including the spectator, is caught up in the transition by the blurred core forms of the men and horse, which are rendered in vivid primary colors. Horses and people are forces of nature pushed against and linked with one another in a primeval battle from which Boccioni must have felt something revolutionary would emerge, according to art critic Michael Brenson.

Futurism vs Cubism

The cubist techniques that the Futurists eventually adopted were initially introduced to Gino Severini. The future painting project relied heavily on cubist scene fragmentation and perspective exploration. The use of cubist geometrization as a foundation allowed for the formation of a new vocabulary of futuristic painting given the major topics that the Futurists dealt with, including the advancement of technology, industry, traffic, and images of city life. The major value that the Futurists wanted to express via their artwork was dynamism, and it was here that they distinguished themselves from the Cubists. As a result, the Futurists did not continue to develop the cubist scene’s static quality, which dissolves into immobility.

What Art Movements Influenced Futurism art Movement?

Futurism was heavily influenced by Cubism, and some of the group’s Milan-based members had access to Cubist art when they traveled to Paris in 1911. Severini was already acquainted with Cubism at the time because he was a resident of Paris. He also believed that his Milan-based colleagues required exposure to France’s more avant-garde artistic movements. Although the Futurists of Milan absorbed a lot of aesthetic ideas from Cubism, they disagreed with its ideology and thought its subject matter was too passive and too grounded in academic ideas. The goal of the futurists was to depict themes that physically penetrated Italy and the way people lived there.

The Neo-Impressionist color theory known as Divisionism was another art style that had an impact on the Futurists. The procedure involves placing “dots” of coloured pigment on the canvas close to one another. Similar to Pointillism, this style involved the application of color in “dots” or “points” by the artist. The obvious distinction between them was how Divisionists maintained the separation of each color’s “dot.” Giacomo Balla’s Street Light (1909) and Gino Severini’s Souvenirs du Voyage (1911), among others, are examples of futurist paintings.

Within the context of these stylistic influences, it is evident that the Futurist painters experimented with vivid colors, which some art critics have referred to as “electrifying” and “prismatic,” and with the way these colors produced light and dark contrasts, as well as—and perhaps most importantly—the element of speed, dynamism, and movement. The Post-Impressionists had a common use of color and light.

What Art Movements were Influenced by the Futurism Art Movement?

Art Deco, Dadaism, Vorticism, Constructivism, and Surrealism are just a few of the movements that were affected by the progressive and passionate attitude of futurism and continued to exist today. The concepts of futuristic art may also be seen in more modern movements like cyberpunk, which similarly emphasizes technology. Neo-Futurism, which took its cues from the original Futurism movement’s emphasis on speed, was founded in the Chicago theatrical scene in 1988.






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