The most important Italian avant-garde art movement of the 20th century, Futurism celebrated advanced technology and urban modernity. Committed to the new, its members wished to destroy older forms of culture and to demonstrate the beauty of modern life - the beauty of the machine, speed, violence and change. Although the movement did foster some architecture, most of its adherents were artists who worked in traditional media such as painting and sculpture, and in an eclectic range of styles inspired by. Nevertheless, they were interested in embracing popular media and new technologies to communicate their ideas. Their enthusiasm for modernity and the machine ultimately led them to celebrate the arrival of the First World War. By its end the group was largely spent as an important avant-garde, though it continued through the 1920s, and, during that time several of its members went on to embrace Fascism, making Futurism the only twentieth century avant-garde to have embraced far right politics.
Futurism began its transformation of Italian culture on February 20th, 1909, with the publication of the Futurist Manifesto, authored by writer. It appeared on the front page of Le Figaro, which was then the largest circulation newspaper in France, and the stunt signaled the movement's desire to employ modern, popular means of communication to spread its ideas. The group would issue more manifestos as the years passed, but this summed up their spirit, celebrating the "machine age", the triumph of technology over nature, and opposing earlier artistic traditions. Marinetti's ideas drew the support of artists , , , and , who believed that they could be translated into a modern, figurative art which explored properties of space and movement. The movement initially centered in Milan, but it spread quickly to Turin and Naples, and over subsequent years Marinetti vigorously promoted it abroad.
Concepts and Styles
The Italian group was slow to develop a distinct style. In the years prior to the emergence of the movement, its members had worked in an eclectic range of styles inspired by, and they continued to do so. was typical in his interest in , which involved breaking down light and color into a series of stippled dots and stripes, and fracturing the picture plane into segments to achieve an ambiguous sense of depth. was rooted in the color theory of the 19th century, and work of painters such as .
In 1911, Futurist paintings were exhibited in Milan at the Mostra d'arte libera, and invitations were extended to "all those who want to assert something new, that is to say far from imitations, derivations and falsifications." The paintings featured threadlike brushstrokes and highly keyed color that depicted space as fragmented and fractured. Subjects and themes focused on technology, speed, and violence, rather than portraits or simple landscapes. Among the paintings was(1910), a picture which can claim to be the first Futurist painting by virtue of its advanced, Cubist-influenced style. Public reaction was mixed. French critics from literary and artistic circles expressed hostility, while many praised the innovative content.
Boccioni's encounter with Cubist painting in Paris had an important influence on him, and he carried this back to his peers in Italy. Nevertheless, the Futurists claimed to reject the style, since they believed it was too preoccupied by static objects, and not enough by the movement of the modern world. It was their fascination with movement that led to their interest in chrono-photography.was particularly enthusiastic about the technology, and his pictures sometimes evoke fast-paced animation, with objects blurred by movement. As stated by the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting, "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." Rather than perceiving an action as a performance of a single limb, Futurists viewed action as the convergence in time and space of multiple extremities.
In 1913,used sculpture to further articulate Futurist dynamism. (1913) exemplifies vigorous action as well as the relationship between object and environment. The piece was a breakthrough for the Futurist movement, but after 1913 the movement began to break apart as its members developed their own personal positions. In 1915, Italy entered World War I; by its end, and the Futurist architect Antonia Sant'Elia perished. Following the war, the movement's center shifted from Milan to Rome; continued to paint in the distinctive Futurist style, and the movement remained active in the 1920s, but the energy had passed from it.
Nevertheless, Futurism sparked important developments outside Italy. A synthesis of Parisian Cubism and Italian Futurism was particularly influential in Russia from around 1912 until 1920, inspiring artists including, , and . The developments in Russia made the movement very distinct from the Italian strain, and different aspects of it are often described as , or Cubo-Futurist. Cubo-Futurism was also an influence on English art, where it gave rise to the movement, which embraced philosopher T.E. Hulme, poet , and artists , , and . Although the impact of Italian Futurism was concentrated in the visual arts, it did inspire artists in other media: was important in developing a Futurist literature in Russia; the Italian architect Antonio Sant'Elia developed a Futurist architecture, and is said to have penned a manifesto on the subject (his designs may have influenced the sets of Ridley Scott's film Bladerunner (1982)); and Luigi Russolo shifted from painting to creating musical instruments, and later wrote the manifesto "the Art of Noises" (1913), which has been a significant reference point for avant-garde music ever since. Although much of the energy had left the movement by the 1920s, the Futurist aesthetic also became part of the mix of modernist styles that inspired .
"We want to fight ferociously against the fanatical, unconscious and snobbish religion of the past, which is nourished by the evil influence of museums. We rebel against the supine admiration of old canvases, old statues and old objects, and against the enthusiasm for all that is worm-eaten, dirty and corroded by time; we believe that the common contempt for everything young, new and palpitating with life is unjust and criminal."
- Filippo Marinetti
"If we paint the phases of an uprising, the crowd bristling with fists and noisy cavalry assaults will be translated on the canvas into bands of lines corresponding to all the forces in conflict, following the painting's laws of general violence. These lines of force must envelop the spectator and carry him away; he himself must be in some way obliged to grapple with the figures in the picture. All the objects, according to physical transcendentalism, tend towards the infinite through their force-lines, to bring the work of art back to true painting. We interpret nature by presenting these lines on the canvas as the origins or prolongations of the rhythms which the objects impress on our sensibilities."