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Futurism

Started: 1909

Ended: Late 1920s

Futurism Timeline

Important Art and Artists of Futurism

The below artworks are the most important in Futurism - that both overview the major ideas of the movement, and highlight the greatest achievements by each artist in Futurism. Don't forget to visit the artist overview pages of the artists that interest you.

The City Rises (1910)
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The City Rises (1910)

Artist: Umberto Boccioni

Artwork description & Analysis: The City Rises is often considered to be the first Futurist painting. Here, Boccioni illustrates the construction of a modern city. The chaos and movement in the piece resemble a war scene as indeed war was presented in the Futurist Manifesto as the only means toward cultural progress. The large horse races into the foreground while several workers struggle to gain control, indicating tension between human and animal. The horse and figures are blurred, communicating rapid movement while other elements, such as the buildings in the background, are rendered more realistically. At the same time, the perspective teeters dramatically in different sections of the painting. The work shows influences of Cubism, Impressionism, and Post-Impressionism, revealed in the brushstrokes and fractured representation of space.

Oil on canvas - Museum of Modern Art

Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (1912)
Artwork Images

Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (1912)

Artist: Giacomo Balla

Artwork description & Analysis: Balla was fascinated by chrono-photography, a vintage technique whereby movement is demonstrated across several frames. This encouraged Balla to find new ways of representing movement in painting, and Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash is perhaps his most famous experiment. The work shows a woman walking a small black dog, the movement collapsed into a single instant. Displaying a close-up of the feet, Balla articulates action in process by combining opaque and semi-transparent shapes.

Oil on canvas - Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York

The Cyclist (1913)
Artwork Images

The Cyclist (1913)

Artist: Natalia Goncharova

Artwork description & Analysis: Goncharova was a leading figure in the pre-war Russian avant-garde, a painter, illustrator, set and costume designer, and writer. Wife of another leading Russian artist, Mikhail Larionov, she was a prominent figure in the Donkey's Tail group, who were important in spreading the influence of Cubo-Futurism in Russia. She was initially inspired by Russian folk art, and she often incorporated traditional motifs into pictures styled in a Cubist manner. Here, the cyclist's legs and feet have been multiplied, indicating the speed of an object in motion. As noted in the Futurist Manifesto, "On account of the persistency of an image upon the retina, moving objects constantly multiply themselves; their form changes like rapid vibrations." The text in the painting points to Goncharova's interest in writing and graphic design.

Oil on canvas - The Russian Museum, St.Petersburg

Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913)
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Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913)

Artist: Umberto Boccioni

Artwork description & Analysis: Frustrated by the constraints of the canvas, Boccioni found it more effective to explain Futurist principles of movement in a three-dimensional form. Unique Forms of Continuity in Space captures the essence of a figure in motion, rendered in geometric forms that convey an effortless grace and speed. Draped clothing seems to blow in the wind as the robotic figure strides forward, creating an aerodynamic effect. As an homage to Auguste Rodin, Boccioni's sculpture is armless, referencing the "incomplete" Walking Man and the classical Greek statue, Nike of Samothrace.

Bronze - Museum of Modern Art, New York

Sea = Dancer (Mare = Ballerina) (1914)
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Sea = Dancer (Mare = Ballerina) (1914)

Artist: Gino Severini

Artwork description & Analysis: Inspired by his voyage through coastal Anzio, Severini created this painting to draw a parallel between the sea and the human form. The figure is undistinguished from the water, becoming an inseparable component of the contiguous surroundings. Severini incorporates the Divisionist technique of stippled brushstrokes; flat planes and cylindrical shapes converge, shattering traditional approaches to representing three-dimensional space.

Oil on canvas with artist's painted frame - Guggenheim Museum, New York

Interventionist Manifesto (1953-54)
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Interventionist Manifesto (1953-54)

Artist: Carlo Carrà

Artwork description & Analysis: Here, inspired by Cubist experiments in the same vein, Carlo Carrà introduces collage to the Futurist repertoire technique. This piece blends Filippo Marinetti's Futurist Manifesto with innovative poetry by Guillaume Apollinaire, resulting in a disorienting composition. Collage elements crack the surface into various planes, creating new perceptions of depth. The juxtaposition of phrases and vivid planes of color read as a kind of Futurist propaganda.

Tempera and collage on cardboard - Private Collection, Milan



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Related Art and Artists

Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884-86)

Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884-86)

Movement: Post-Impressionism

Artist: Georges Seurat

Artwork description & Analysis: Seurat's Sunday Afternoon is perhaps the most famous example of the painting technique known as Pointillism. Although the picture contains the impressionistic elements of light and shadow and depicts the leisure activities of the Parisian bourgeoisie, it is an early example of the artistic reaction to the Impressionist movement. Seurat composed the entire scene from a series of small, precise dots of color. If viewed closely, the painting becomes nothing more than a quasi-abstract array of colors, similar to a needlepoint. When viewed at an appropriate distance, however, Sunday Afternoon comes into focus. Seurat carefully placed each dot in relation to the ones around it in order to create the desired optical effect. He did so in order to bring structure and rationality to what he perceived were the triviality and disorganization rampant in Impressionism.

Oil on canvas - The Art Institute of Chicago

Electric Prisms (1914)
Artwork Images

Electric Prisms (1914)

Movement: Cubism

Artist: Sonia Delaunay

Artwork description & Analysis: Robert and Sonia Delaunay exhibited with the Salon Cubists, and later founded the Orphism movement that was heavily influenced by Cubism. Like all Cubists, they used geometric forms and flattened perspective to show visual manipulation of their subject, but the Delaunays in particular had metaphysical interests in color and concept, often overlapping multiple scenes and views to suggest a fourth dimension. This multiplicity of scenes (or so-called theory of simultaneity) proposed that events and objects are "inextricably connected in time and space." Electric Prisms uses the sphere to represent this idea of overlap. In the work, different spheres convene into large concentric circles that are arranged to depict dynamic movement of electricity. Orphism was a short-lived movement but was a key phase in the transition from Cubism to non-representational art.

Oil on canvas - Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris

Suprematist Painting, Eight Red Rectangles (1915)

Suprematist Painting, Eight Red Rectangles (1915)

Movement: Suprematism

Artist: Kazimir Malevich

Artwork description & Analysis: The three levels of Suprematism were described by Malevich as black, colored and white. Eight Red Rectangles is an example of the second, more dynamic phase, in which primary colors began to be used. The composition is somewhat ambiguous, since while on the one hand the rectangles can be read as floating in space, as if they were suspended on the wall, they can also be read as objects seen from above. Malevich appears to have read them in the latter way, since at one time he was fascinated by aerial photography. Indeed he later criticized this more dynamic phase of his Suprematist movement as 'aerial Suprematism,' since its compositions tended to echo pictures of the earth taken from the skies, and in this sense departed from his ambitions for a totally abstract, non-objective art. The uneven spacing and slight tilt of the juxtaposed shapes in Eight Red Rectangles, as well as the subtly different tones of red, infuse the composition with energy, allowing Malevich to experiment with his concept of "infinite" space.

Oil on canvas - Museum of Modern Art, New York

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