Futurism: This style of art evolved out of the style of cubism in 1909 and took up the cause of FilippoMarinetti. Rarely in history was an art movement so bold and aggressive in the promotion of their idea. The focus of this new art style was the emerging technologies of the early 20th century. It also focused on speed and violence. This technique sought to capture the fast pace of modern society. It used the fragmentation and geometric shapes of cubism but also fragmented time and sequence. They used rhythms as well as bright colors to give their images an added sense of motion. For them it was a celebration of man’s triumph with machines. Many futurists were Fascists and supported World War I as a “cleansing” of humanity. This attitude is also what cause the rapid decline of the art style (around 1914). When the realities of war and its brutality sunk in, many abandoned the futurist manifesto. This was ironic, considering the groups support of conflict and bloodshed.
On 20 February 1909, FilippoTommaso Marinetti's Futurist manifesto, "The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism" was published. Thanks to family connections, he managed to get it on the cover of Le Figaro, France's most respectable and conservative daily. Here began one of the most brilliant and disturbing episodes in 20th-century art, an extreme from which, it could be argued, most subsequent art has been in panicked retreat.The “Manifesto of Futurism,” proclaimed the burning desire of the author and his fellow Futurists to abandon the past and embrace the future. Tired of Italy’s reliance on its classical heritage and disdainful of the present, these artists called for a new aesthetic language based on industry, war, and the machine. In addition to their prolific output of drawings, photographs, films, performances, and paintings and sculptures, the Futurists published countless manifestos, leaflets, and art and poetry periodicals.
In several respects Futurism was unique among modern art movements. It was Italian. It originated in a view of civilisation and found expression first in words; rather than springing fro some dissatisfaction with inherited idioms of art and from an ambition to create a new idiom, it started with a general idea and found artistic expression only with difficulty. In some ways it was the most radical, noisily rejecting all traditions and time honoured institutions. It propagated its ideas very rapidly throughout Europe, from London to Moscow, and it was short lived.It chose its own name, unlike movements such as Fauvism and Cubism which were dubbed by antagonistic critics. And it went to great lengths to provide its on rationale in literary form: the modern tradition of artist’s manifestos stems primarily from here.
Before I proceed, first of all, what IS a manifesto more broadly? What form of writing is it? A dictionary definition of a manifesto would describe it as “a public declaration of policy and aims”. Immediately, then, we can see that a manifesto is much more than a political tract or document. It’s a statement of intent, or, as the dictionary notes, a PUBLIC DECLARATION. This is interesting, because it suggests both a specific audience for the manifesto – not a specialist group, or something to be circulated amongst interested parties, but a public declaration. The notion of a manifesto as a declaration is also worth noting, as it suggests that a manifesto is not designed simply to be read, or something which exists on paper, but as something to be performed or spoken in front of an audience. In 1517 the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to a church door stating his discontent and defiance of the current state of the Church. In terms of being anti-authority and being a public, bold, defiant declaration, we could see this as an early manifesto.In this sense, and we’ll come back to this idea, again we see the origins of the manifesto form in the field of politics, as something akin to a political speech (both written and spoken), a declaration or set of principles. The form, language and structure of a manifesto, then, whatever its purpose, borrows heavily from the art of rhetoric and political oratory, which has classical origins. If we read early 20th century art manifestos we’ll see that the same styles and techniques are used in the delivery of language that we find in a speech at a political rally.
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. Futurism was inspired by the development of Cubism and went beyond its techniques. The Futurist painters made the rhythm of their repetitions of lines. Inspired by some photographic experiments, they were breaking motion into small sequences, and using the wide range of angles within a given time-frame all aimed to incorporate the dimension of time within the picture. Brilliant colors and flowing brush strokes also additionally were creating the illusion of movement. Futurism influenced many other 20th century art movements, including Art Deco, Vorticism, Constructivism and Surrealism.
When writing the first Futurist manifesto Marinetti had hesitated between calling the movement Dynamism or Electricity, alternatives that clearly suggest where his interests lay. The Futurist Manifesto, the first significant art manifesto of the 20th century. He wanted the arts to demolish the past and celebrate the delights of speed and mechanical energy.The first Futurist Manifesto – there were several following this one – not only announced a new movement but started a new trend, effectively a new genre, an adventure in artistic expressionThe introduction begins: “It is from Italy that we hurl at the whole world this utterly violent, inflammatory manifesto of ours, with which we today are founding ‘Futurism’, because we wish to free our country from the stinking canker of its professors, archaeologists, tour guides and antiquarians. For far too long Italy has been a marketplace for junk dealers. We want our country free from the endless number of museums that everywhere cover her ground like countless graveyards. Museums, graveyards! ... They’re the same things, really, because of their grim profusion of corpses that no-one remembers.”
In this manifesto Marinetti laid out the blueprint for an avant-garde movement. He was deliberately provocative in his wholesale rejection of the past
Perhaps the most memorable, controversial and antagonistic passage from the manifesto is in conclusion of paragraph nine:“We wish to glorify war – the sole cleanser of the world – militarism, patriotism, the destructive act of the libertarian, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for women.”If nothing else, this type of sensationalist language and expression ensured publicity - the Manifesto was immediately reproduced, quoted and distributed across Europe.As I already mentioned, the Futurist Manifesto was written not by an artist, but by F T Marinetti, a poet, novelist and playwright. Like Symbolism, Surrealism, Dada and Vorticism, Futurism was a literary movement as much as a visual art movement and exemplifies the way in which like-minded writers, artists, architects and musicians often joined forces for mutual benefit, to present a united front to the world, and to present themselves as an identifiable group before they or there works were categorised retrospectively by critics, the media or the public.
Futurists mixed activism and artistic research. They organized events that caused scandal. Everything was there to help them to glorify Italy and lead their country into the age of modernity. Certain Futurists vehemently promoted themselves to try to join forces with the Fascists, who were coming to power at the time.Futurism was a largely Italian movement, although it also had adherents in other countries, France and most notably Russia. After the First World War Marinetti formed a futurist political party that was quickly absorbed into the nascent Fascist movement. He remained an active Fascist for the lifespan of the movement, following Mussolini to his Nazi puppet state, the Republic of Salò. His attempts to make futurism into a state art never quite worked
The pioneer futurists were true to their word about the glorification of war. Marinetti's 1913 sound poem "The Battle of Adrianopole", with its percussive effects and mimicking of shells and artillery exploding ("zangtumbtumb!"), was an incantation on the beauty of the Balkan wars. So when the First World War began, the futurists were ardent propagandists for Italian intervention.
Modern Idol, painted in 1911, is a faintly risible bit of post-impressionism, in which a bug-eyed woman in a flowery hat glares at the viewer, the dynamic intent expressed through shimmering brushstrokes rather than anything more extreme. Many early commentators were far more impressed by the ideas than by the end result of futurism, perhaps because of such works.The vehemence inMarinetti’s manifesto is in keeping with his impatience at Italy’s uncompleted national development, at the vast burden of grandiose tradition which pressed on Italian culture more inhibitingly than any other culture – Italy had contributed next to nothing to 19th century developments. The first decade of the century had seen Italy made aware, through new magazines and exhibitions, of Impressionism, Post-Impressionism of various sorts including early works of Matisse and Picasso, Symbolism, varieties of Art Nouveau etc. Marinetti and the Futurist considered that the only way forward as to propose a new view of the world that would supersede them all.
The Manifesto of the Futurist Painters: TO THE YOUNG ARTISTS OF ITALY! Was supervised by Marinetti.It demanded a new art for a new world and denounced every attachment to the arts of the past.“We are sickened by the foul laziness of artists, who, ever since the sixteenth century, have endlessly exploited the glories of the ancient Romans. In the eyes of other countries, Italy is still a land of the dead, a vast Pompeii, whit with sepulchres. But Italy is being reborn. Its political resurgence will be followed by a cultural resurgence.”
They go on to say:“Living art draws its life from the surrounding environment. Our forebears drew their artistic inspiration from a religious atmosphere which fed their souls; in the same way we must breathe in the tangible miracles of contemporary life—the iron network of speedy communications which envelops the earth, the transatlantic liners, the dreadnoughts, those marvelous flights which furrow our skies, the profound courage of our submarine navigators and the spasmodic struggle to conquer the unknown. How can we remain insensible to the frenetic life of our great cities and to the exciting new psychology of night-life; the feverish figures of the bon viveur, the cocette, the apache and the absinthe drinker?”
These are our final conclusions:With our enthusiastic adherence to Futurism, we will: Destroy the cult of the past, the obsession with the ancients, pedantry and academic formalism. Totally invalidate all kinds of imitation. Elevate all attempts at originality, however daring, however violent. Bear bravely and proudly the smear of “madness” with which they try to gag all innovators. Regard art critics as useless and dangerous. Rebel against the tyranny of words: “Harmony” and “good taste” and other loose expressions which can be used to destroy the works of Rembrandt, Goya, Rodin... Sweep the whole field of art clean of all themes and subjects which have been used in the past. Support and glory in our day-to-day world, a world which is going to be continually and splendidly transformed by victorious Science.The dead shall be buried in the earth’s deepest bowels! The threshold of the future will be swept free of mummies! Make room for youth, for violence, for daring!
It was to take some time before the Futurist painters to find the pictorial vehicle for their ideas. Indeed when Boccioni exhibited 42 works in Venice they were fairly well received by the critics but did not strike anyone as particularly revolutionary. There was a distinct gap between Boccioni’s bold words and his temperate pictures.
It was still the subject matter rather than the idiom of their work that was new. Whilst works like these are emphatically Futurist, they were presented in more or less traditional ways.A notable critic ArdengoSofficicriticised their work in the Florentine magazine La Voce, Marinetti, Carra, and Boccioni dealt with it in a violent way, they attacked Soffici as he sat outside a café.
Marinetti financed a trip for Boccioni, Russolo, and Carra to Paris where they met Picasso, Braque and others. When back in Milan they worked on re-orientating their efforts in accord with what they had learned, cubism in particular, which at that time was little known outside of Paris.To shape their art they drew upon new ideas of perception, experimental photography and multi-sensory responses, and the simultaneous interleaving of memory and experience. In parallel to the abstraction of form developed by the Cubists, the Futurists fragmented the body to show its active impact on its surroundings, through what they called 'lines of force'.
The gesture which we would reproduce on canvas shall no longer be a fixed moment in universal dynamism. It shall simply be the dynamic sensation itself.
Indeed, all things move, all things run, all things are rapidly changing. A profile is never motionless before our eyes, but it constantly appears and disappears. On account of the persistency of an image upon the retina, moving objects constantly multiply themselves; their form changes like rapid vibrations, in their mad career. Thus a running horse has not four legs, but twenty, and their movements are triangular.
GiacomoBalla ‘s Dog on a Leash is the closest Futurism ever came to imitating the photographic studies of Muybridge.
GiacomoBalla's Speed of a Motorcycle exemplifies the Futurists' insistence that the perceived world is in constant motion. These paintings illustrate light, speed and movement, which Balla sought to break down to their simplest forms while moving closer to total abstraction.
Boccioni’s most famous work is the sculpture Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, in which a turning body is distended into a fixed blur
What was Futurism offering to the world? Its basic views, amounting to an instance that growth and technology and concurrent developments in society and thought required expression in new, bold, art forms, were not unique but had never been presented so vehemently. Moreover here was an art movement that put idea before style, thus challenging not only the aesthetic ambitions of most avant garde art. Futurist paintings tested and proved the possibility of using art as a means of capturing non visual aspects of the environment recognised as dynamic rather than static.futurism's legacy, particularly in Italy, and the way that Italian futurism and the modern movement influenced architecture and official culture under Mussolini
“Standing on the World’s Summit”: Futurism’s becoming...
Futurism came into beingwith the appearance of amanifesto published by thepoet Filippo Marinetti on thefront page of the February20, 1909, issue of Le Figaro.FilippoTommaso Marinetti 1876-1944
"We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind.” Umberto BoccioniA Futurist Evening in Milan (1911)
What IS a manifesto? Apublicdeclaration of policy and aims
Marinettisummed up themajor principlesof the Futurists:• a love ofspeed,technology andviolence• thetechnologicaltriumph of manover natureEnricoPrampoliniPortrait ofMarinetti(1925)
“…the splendor of the worldhas been increased by a newbeauty: the beauty of speed.A racing car, its bodyornamented by great pipesthat resemble snakes withexplosive breath…ascreaming automobile thatseems to run on grapeshot, ismore beautiful than theWinged Victory ofSamothrace…”Winged Victory of Samothrace [thefamous Hellenistic sculpture in theLouvre]
“We wish to glorify war – the sole cleanser of the world – militarism, patriotism, thedestructive act of the libertarian, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for women.” Marinetti, Manifesto of Futurism (1909)
Renato GiuseppeBertelli’s ContinuousProfile – Head ofMussolini (1933) is anultra-moderninterpretation ofportraiture, in Fascistblack.
Marinetti was a master ofpublicity, and his writingsand dealings with the publicand press set the tone forthe controversiessurrounding Futurism. Themovement was defined bythe manifestoes and booksthat he published, whichwere distributed in manylanguages. As well as art,Marinetti wanted torevolutionise writing itself.
Italy hadcontributed next tonothing to 19thcenturydevelopments. Thefirst decade of thecentury had seenItaly made aware,through newmagazines andexhibitions, ofImpressionism, Post-Impressionism ofvarious sortsincluding earlyworks of Matisseand Picasso,Symbolism, varietiesof Art Nouveau etc.
Manifesto of the Futurist PaintersUmberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Luigi Russolo, GiacomoBalla, Gino Severini TO THE YOUNG ARTISTS OF ITALY! “We are sickened by the foul laziness of artists, who, ever since the sixteenth century, have endlessly exploited the glories of the ancient Romans. In the eyes of other countries, Italy is still a land of the dead, a vast Pompeii, whit with sepulchres. But Italy is being reborn. Its political resurgence will be followed by a cultural Gino Severini The Bear Dance (1913-14) resurgence.”
A technologised savagery is palpable in most of futurismsartworks and proclamations. Technology is not so much used asworshipped or made anthropomorphic, as a kind of new deity. Luigi Russolo Dynamism of an Automobile (1912-13)
These are our final conclusions:With our enthusiastic adherence to Futurism, we will:• Destroy the cult of the past, the obsession with the ancients, pedantry andacademic formalism.•Totally invalidate all kinds of imitation.•Elevate all attempts at originality, however daring, however violent.•Bear bravely and proudly the smear of “madness” with which they try to gagall innovators.•Regard art critics as useless and dangerous.•Rebel against the tyranny of words: “Harmony” and “good taste” and otherloose expressions which can be used to destroy the works of Rembrandt, Goya,Rodin...•Sweep the whole field of art clean of all themes and subjects which have beenused in the past.•Support and glory in our day-to-day world, a world which is going to becontinually and splendidly transformed by victorious Science.The dead shall be buried in the earth’s deepest bowels! The threshold of thefuture will be swept free of mummies! Make room for youth, for violence, fordaring!
Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting “The gesture which we would reproduce on canvas shall no longer be a fixed moment in universal dynamism. It shall simply be the dynamic sensation itself.”Umberto BoccioniDynamism of a cyclist(1913)
Indeed, all things move, all things run, all things are rapidly changing. A profileis never motionless before our eyes, but it constantly appears and disappears.On account of the persistency of an image upon the retina, moving objectsconstantly multiply themselves; their form changes like rapid vibrations, intheir mad career. Thus a running horse has not four legs, but twenty, and theirmovements are triangular.
Like in Da Vincis drawing Vitruvian Man, the possible alternative positions of the dogs and the ladys limbs are superimposed. This represents a break with the rules of classical European painting, which state that no part of a figure should be duplicated, unless its a mythical creature.GiacomoBallaDynamism of a Dog on a Leash(1912)
This work exemplifies the Futurists insistence that the perceived world is in constant motion. These paintings illustrate light, speed and movement, which Balla sought to break down to their simplest forms while moving closer to total abstraction.GiacomoBallaSpeed of a Motorcycle(1913)
Technical Manifestoof Futurist SculptureUmberto BoccioniUnique Forms of Continuity inSpace(1913)
Manifesto of Futurist Women “Instead of putting men under the yoke of miserable, sentimental needs, drive your sons, your men, to excel themselves. You create them. You can do everything with them. Youowe humanity heroes. Provide them!” Valentine de Saint-Point
Urban life was rapidlychanging and theyembraced this excitingvitality. Electric streetlighting andindustrialisation blurredthe distinction betweenday and night, while theexperience of lookingthrough the window of aspeeding train or cabrevealed new ways ofseeing the world.Umberto BoccioniForces of the street, 1911
NEXT WEEKRevolution and Rebuilding: Constructivism, De Stijl and the Bauhaus