Futurism and its basic principles
The Futurists had an interest in combining their fascination with modern subject matter with a dynamic painting style. This interest extended into sculpture and music as well.
The Futurists’ association with Fascism resulted in a less rebellious artistic style, and their involvement during World War I effectively brought the movement to an end.
The Futurists embraced speed, violence, and youth culture in their search to move culture forward. They were painters, sculptors, graphic artists, musicians, architects, and industrial designers.
They were founded in 1909 by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, who coined the term Futurism based on his desire to discard the art of the past and celebrate change, originality, and innovation in art, culture, and society. In his manifesto, he exalted the beauty of new technology like the airplane and automobile, glorified violence and conflict, and called for the destruction of cultural institutions.
Futurist painters like Umberto Boccioni emphasized the idea of movement through shapes that seem to explode or whirl in space, such as in Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913). The sculptor Giacomo Balla was also fascinated with the concept of motion and created pieces such as Abstract Speed - The Car Has Passed (1913) and Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (1914). Most of the Futurists joined the military during World War I, and several including Boccioni and Antonio Sant'Elia died during their service.
Futurism embraced modernity in every sense. Their Manifesto of 1909 promoted the idea of progression, speed, urbanization, industry and technology and highlighted youth as the most important factor in social development. This movement also took a great interest in airplanes, automobiles and locomotion in general. It has been widely argued that the Futurists were fascists, but according to many scholarly resources, this is not necessarily true. The founder of Futurism, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, did not agree with all aspects of Fascism and eventually readjusted his ideals to make them more palatable to Mussolini’s propaganda machine.
The Futurists wanted to free art from the heavy weight of the past and celebrate modern life through their compositions. They created techniques to express the dynamism of speed and motion such as blurring and repetition. They were fascinated with aviation and cinematography and found inspiration in the work of nineteenth century scientist Etienne-Jules Marey’s chronophotographic studies that illustrated human and animal movements. Artists associated with this movement include Umberto Boccioni, Giacomo Balla and Carlo Carra.
The Futurists aimed to sweep away what they considered outdated traditions. They embraced modern technology, celebrated change, and glorified youth. Their energy and passion for life can be seen in their art, especially when they paint subjects such as urban landscapes or new technologies like trains, cars and aeroplanes.
The short-lived artistic movement influenced many future movements, such as German Expressionism and Dada. Futurist painters such as Umberto Boccioni, Antonio Sant’Elia and Carlo Carra used the concept of “plastic dynamism” in their work, showing motion through the use of shapes and colors. They also experimented with combining the human with the machine, as illustrated in Gino Severini’s Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash.
Literary Futurism also influenced later movements such as Cubo-futurism and Constructivism. However, World War I effectively brought the movement to a close. Several of the most well-known Futurists either died during the war or returned to more traditional styles of art.
The Futurists glorified speed and movement, new technology including trains, cars and aeroplanes, youth and violence. They hated old values, morality and utilitarian value systems. They were also advocates for revolution and war.
The movement was short-lived and was replaced by other movements, but it had a powerful influence on many future movements like Dadaism and German Expressionism. Futurists like Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni and Carlo Carra created masterful artwork that reflected the ideas of dynamism and unpredictable change.
Boccioni's sculpture Unique Forms of Continuity in Space is an example of his vision of a futuristic world. His choice of shiny bronze lends a mechanical quality to the figure that is half human, half machine. Its pose mirrors the Hellenistic masterpiece Nike of Samothrace and embodies the Futurist ideal of a man-machine hybrid. Futurists like Luigi Russolo, a composer and artist, saw the world from a different perspective than the other Futurists. He believed the sounds of the new industrialized world - speed and noises - would create a new type of music. He built instruments called Intonarumori to play this new music, which he described as noise art.