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  • gerard van weyenbergh

Futurism, a basic description.

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

An Italian avant-garde movement, Futurism is contemporary with French cubism and Russian constructivism. Founded in 1909 at the instigation of the poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, it has made modern life, the machine but also war, his favorite subjects. Strongly politicized and virulent, Futurism brings together Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Luigi Russolo, Gino Severini, and Antonio Sant'Elia who share the anarchist and social struggle of Marinetti. Italian Futurism continued until 1944, when the poet died.

History of movement

Italian Futurism is a movement expressed through the voices of manifestos, a form of discourse associated with the historical avant-garde. The birth was not proclaimed in Italy, but in Paris, on February 20, 1909, by Marinetti in Le Figaro. This is the first movement of vanguard of the XXth century. It affirms a program, at the crossroads of aesthetics and politics, in an era won by the development of advertising and the conquest of public opinion.

Marinetti is a writer and poet of French and Italian language who wishes to renew art. It brings together a group of artists (Boccioni, Carrà, Russolo, Balla, Severini) who, from 1910, signed a manifesto in futurist painters in Milan. He also recruits poets, sculptors, and musicians. In 1912, the group organized its first exhibition in Paris, at the Bernheim-Jeune gallery. The years 1912–1917 are the peak of futuristic creation.

Futurism is opposed to tradition and the past. It promotes innovation and modern art, in original but also very virulent terms. Marinetti affirms that "futurism is the religion of the new," valuing, for example, the contemporary city and technological modernity. For the futurists, the modern goes hand in hand with the renouncement of all backwardness. Not without provocation, they say they want to "get rid of countless museums", destroy libraries. A quote from Marinetti is known to illustrate this state of mind: "a racing automobile is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace", referring to the famous ancient sculpture.

Futurism is interested in movement, mobility. Aesthetically, it favors geometrization, which sometimes evokes cubism. Futurism promotes the concept of "continuity", that is to say, "simultaneity," and proposes a notion of time as an intuitive experience, a continuous flow between past and present, inspired by theories of Henri Bergson.

Futurists establish an equation between art and life and are involved politically. The artist must, according to them, hold political and social power. They maintain a strong relationship with the revolutionary ideologies of the time.

Marinetti believed in the regenerative power of war. He thought it necessary to clean up politics and produce a new world. Fascinated by aviation, the poet joined in 1911 as a correspondent alongside Italian troops in the war between his country and Turkey. In 1914, Boccioni took part in actions calling for the entry into the war of Italy. But Futurism quickly found itself in difficulty: Marinetti left for the front in May 1915, where he was wounded twice; Boccioni died in 1916 at the Verona hospital, after falling from a horse during military exercises; and Antonio Sant'Elia expires on the front the same year.

In 1918, Futurism became more politicized. Marinetti launched the Manifesto of the Futurist Political Party , close to the Italian Nationalist Party and joined Mussolini's fighting beams the following year. During the 1920s and 1930s, he remained close to fascism, but the Duce was suspicious of Futurism. The Duce did not wish to make the official art of the regime. However, Futurism of the 1930s remains faithful - for the most part - to Mussolinian politics and the cult of its leader. In 1942, two years before his death, Marinetti announced a "new warlike aesthetic", which was always a quest for power and mechanization. Read

art expert
Russolo, © Musee National d'Art Moderne de Paris


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