"What we want to do is to show the living object in its dynamic growth"
UMBERTO BOCCIONI SYNOPSIS
Umberto Boccioni was one of the most prominent and influential artists among the Italian, an art movement that emerged in the years before the First World War. Boccioni was important not only in developing the movement's theories, but also in introducing the visual innovations that led to the dynamic, -like style now so closely associated with the group. Emerging first as a painter, Boccioni later produced some significant Futurist sculpture. He died while volunteering in the Italian army, aged only thirty-three, making him emblematic of the Futurists' celebration of the machine and the violent destructive force of modernity.
UMBERTO BOCCIONI KEY IDEAS
MOST IMPORTANT ART
This Self-Portrait demonstrates Boccioni's style as a student at the Academy in Rome. Although it differs greatly from his mature Futurism, being far softer in its tone and brushwork, he cherished the picture and never sold it during his lifetime. It is typical of the period when he was moving from a style inspired by early Impressionism to a more volumetric approach suggested by study of works by Paul Cézanne.
Oil on canvas - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
UMBERTO BOCCIONI BIOGRAPHY
Umberto Boccioni was born in 1882 in Reggio Calabria, a rural region on the southern tip of Italy. His parents had originated from the Romagna region, further north. As a young boy, Boccioni and his family moved frequently, eventually settling in the Sicilian city of Catania in 1897, where he received the bulk of his secondary education. There is little evidence to suggest he had any serious interest in the fine arts until 1901, at which time he moved from Catania to Rome and enrolled at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma (Academy of Fine Arts, Rome).
It was in Rome that Boccioni first connected with his futurecollaborator . Both studied under , who was renowned as a painter, and Boccioni became a loyal student of the style. During these years he also continued his travels in Italy and beyond; he visited Paris for an extended period, where he encountered for the first time, and followed this with a sojourn to Russia.
During this period, much of the art being produced in Italy was, to Boccioni's mind, rather provincial. In the city of Milan, however, there existed a forward-thinking society of young artists known as the Famiglia Artistica. So, in 1907, Boccioni moved to Milan, where he met, the poet and theorist. Two years later, on February 20, 1909, Marinetti published the first Futurist manifesto on the front page of the established French newspaper Le Figaro. It quickly attracted followers, among them Boccioni, Severini, Balla, Carlo Carra and Luigi Russolo. But in the years that followed, Boccioni proved to be Futurism's most outspoken proponent and foremost theorist, not to mention primarily responsible for applying Marinetti's example to the visual arts.
The beginning ofcoincided with Boccioni's most prolific period as an artist. On February 11, 1910, under the leadership of Boccioni, the "Manifesto of Futurist Painters" was published by magazine Poesia, and was signed by , and others. Addressed to the "Young Artists of Italy," this new manifesto, much like its predecessor, attacked institutions like museums and libraries, which the Futurists now considered redundant. Boccioni and the Futurists were aiming at one of the Italy's principle claims to prestige, its classical past, which they considered a hindrance to the country's development as a modern power.
Later on in the same year Boccioni published the "Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting," also through Marinetti's Poesia. He declared "That all subjects previously used must be swept aside in order to express our whirling life of steel, of pride, of fever and of speed."
As a young artist, Boccioni had chosen subjects that simply caught his eye, but as a Futurist, he selected subjects as vehicles for painterly theories. One subject that often inspired him was the city, and it is explored in works like The Forces of the Street and(both 1911).
In 1912, the Futurist group held an impressive exhibition of paintings at the Bernheim-Jeune in Paris. The centerpiece of Boccioni's contribution was a group of three paintings entitled States of Mind I-III: The Farewells, Those Who Stay, and Those Who Go (all 1911), considered by many to be the artist's most ambitious work thus far. In States of Mind, he attempted to abandon the dependence on any descriptive reality, opting instead to, as he put it, "[have the] colors and forms ... express themselves." In short, Boccioni designed these works to express the Futurist mind-set, in which the past had no bearing on how the artist viewed the world around him.
While in Paris, Boccioni visited various artists' studios, including those of, , and . What he saw encouraged him to apply his principles to sculpture, resulting in works like The Development of a Bottle in Space (1912) and (1913). This new interest also led him to write the "Manifesto of Futurist Sculpture."
Late Period and Death
In 1913, Boccioni began contributing to the experimental newspaper Lacerba, which had been founded by the Florentine author andGiovanni Papini (Lacerba published 70 issues between January 1, 1913 and May 22, 1915). With this newspaper, Boccioni and others now had a publication exclusively devoted to promoting the movement's ideas. In April of the following year, Boccioni published his book Futurist Painting and Sculpture, by far the most comprehensive account of Futurist artistic theory written by a founding member.
In 1914, the Great War began and quickly spread throughout Europe, and its remarkable ferocity very closely resembled the cleansing violence that the Futurists had long called for. So, in July 1915, Boccioni, along with, Russolo and several other Futurists, enrolled with the Lombard Volunteer Cyclist Battalion.
The battalion was disbanded in December later that year and during a leave of absence from the war, Boccioni continued to paint, write and lecture. He was called back into service in June 1916, and stationed outside Verona with an artillery brigade. During a training exercise, Boccioni was thrown from his horse and trampled. Still a young man of just thirty-three, Boccioni succumbed to injuries and died a day later on August 17.
UMBERTO BOCCIONI LEGACY
UMBERTO BOCCIONI QUOTES
"Nothing is absolute in painting. What was truth for the painters of yesterday is but a falsehood today."
"To paint a human figure you must not paint it; you must render the whole of its surrounding atmosphere."
"[War is] a wonderful, marvelous, terrible thing. And in the mountains it seems like a battle with the infinite. Grandiose, immense, life and death. I am Happy."
"I shall leave this existence with a contempt for all that is not art."
Umberto Boccioni Influences
Interactive chart with Umberto Boccioni's main influencers, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
Umberto Boccioni BOOKS AND ONLINE RESOURCES
Boccioni's Materia: A Futurist Masterpiece and the
Avant-garde in Milan and Paris
By Emily Braun, Flavio Fergonzi, Giovanna Ginex, Umberto Boccioni
By Ester Coen
Umberto Boccioni: Dynamism of a Speeding Horse: A Catalogue
By Philip Rylands
Estorick Collection, London
By Jonathan Jones
Impossible Dreams of a Speed Freak
By Laura Cumming
Art Review; Blurring the Line Between the Present
and the Future
By Grace Glueck
ART; Futuristic Works That Define Dimensions of
Time and Space
By D. Dominick Lombardi
Art in Review
By Michael Kimmelman