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Artists Umberto Boccioni
Umberto Boccioni Photo

Umberto Boccioni

Italian Painter, Sculptor, and Theoretician

Movements and Styles: Futurism, Cubism, Neo-Impressionism

Born: October 19, 1882 - Reggio Calabria, Italy

Died: August 17, 1916 - Sorte, Italy

Umberto Boccioni Timeline

Quotes

"Nothing is absolute in painting. What was truth for the painters of yesterday is but a falsehood today."
Umberto Boccioni
"To paint a human figure you must not paint it; you must render the whole of its surrounding atmosphere."
Umberto Boccioni
"Especially for us Italians, everything modern is synonymous with ugliness.. To a Venetian, Florentine, or Roman the modern movement is an aberration that must be fled from after first deriding or deploring it... Its is precisely this constant, disgraceful antagonism between past and present that is responsible for our political, social, and artistic weakness."
Umberto Boccioni
"[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."
Umberto Boccioni
"I shall leave this existence with a contempt for all that is not art."
Umberto Boccioni
"The time has passed for our sensations in painting to be whispered. We wish them in the future to sing and re-echo upon our canvasses in deafening and triumphant flourishes."
Umberto Boccioni
"(to erect)… a new altar throbbing with dynamism as pure and exultant as those which were elevated to divine mystery through religious contemplation."
Umberto Boccioni

"What we want to do is to show the living object in its dynamic growth"

Umberto Boccioni Signature

Synopsis

Umberto Boccioni was one of the most prominent and influential artists among the Italian Futurists, 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, Cubist-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.

Key Ideas

Although Boccioni deserves a great amount of credit for evolving the style now associated with Italian Futurism, he first matured as a Neo-Impressionist painter, and was drawn to landscape and portrait subjects. It was not until he encountered Cubism that he developed a style that matched the ideology of dynamism and violent societal upheaval that lay at the heart of Futurism. Boccioni borrowed the geometric forms typical of the French style, and employed them to evoke crashing, startling sounds to accompany the depicted movement.
Boccioni believed that scientific advances and the experience of modernity demanded that the artist abandon the tradition of depicting static, legible objects. The challenge, he believed, was to represent movement, the experience of flux, and the inter-penetration of objects. Boccioni summed up this project with the phrase, "physical transcendentalism."
Despite his fascination with physical movement, Boccioni had a strong belief in the importance of intuition, an attitude he inherited from the writings of Henri Bergson and the Symbolist painters of the late-19th century. This shaped Boccioni's approach to depicting the modern world, encouraging him to give it symbolic, almost mythical dimensions that evoked the artist's emotions as much as the objective reality of modern life. In this respect, Boccioni's approach is very different from that of the Cubists, whose work was grounded in an attempt to closely describe the physical character of objects, albeit in a new way.

Biography

Umberto Boccioni Photo

Childhood

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).

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Umberto Boccioni Biography Continues

Important Art by Umberto Boccioni

The below artworks are the most important by Umberto Boccioni - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

Self-Portrait (1905)

Self-Portrait (1905)

Artwork description & Analysis: 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

The City Rises (1910)

The City Rises (1910)

Artwork description & Analysis: The City Rises is considered by many to be the very first truly Futurist painting. Boccioni took a year to complete it and it was exhibited throughout Europe shortly after it was finished. It testifies to the hold that Neo-Impressionism and Symbolism maintained on the movement's artists even after Futurism was inaugurated in 1909. It was not until around 1911 that Boccioni adapted elements of Cubism to create a distinct Futurist style. Nevertheless, The City Rises does capture the group's love of dynamism and their fondness for the modern city. A large horse races into the foreground while several workers struggle to gain control of it, suggesting a primeval conflict between humanity and beasts. 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.

Oil on canvas - Museum of Modern Art, New York

The Street Enters the House (1911)

The Street Enters the House (1911)

Artwork description & Analysis: The geometric elements and the perspectival distortion in The The Street Enters the House demonstrate the influence of Expressionism and Cubism on Boccioni. According to the original catalog entry for the work, "The dominating sensation is that which one would experience on opening a window: all life, and the noises of the street rush in at the same time as the movement and the reality of the objects outside."

Oil on canvas - Sprengel Museum, Hanover, Germany

More Umberto Boccioni Artwork and Analysis:



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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Umberto Boccioni
Interactive chart with Umberto Boccioni's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Paul CézannePaul Cézanne
Auguste RodinAuguste Rodin
Georges BraqueGeorges Braque
Alexander ArchipenkoAlexander Archipenko
Giacomo BallaGiacomo Balla

Personal Contacts

Filippo Tommaso MarinettiFilippo Tommaso Marinetti
Carlo CarràCarlo Carrà
Gino SeveriniGino Severini
Luigi RussoloLuigi Russolo
Giacomo BallaGiacomo Balla

Movements

ImpressionismImpressionism
Neo-ImpressionismNeo-Impressionism
ExpressionismExpressionism
DivisionismDivisionism
CubismCubism

Influences on Artist
Umberto Boccioni
Umberto Boccioni
Years Worked: 1905 - 1916
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Christopher NevinsonChristopher Nevinson
Wyndham LewisWyndham Lewis
Kazimir MalevichKazimir Malevich

Personal Contacts

Antonio Sant'EliaAntonio Sant'Elia
Mario SironiMario Sironi
Ambrogio CasatiAmbrogio Casati

Movements

FuturismFuturism
CubismCubism
Cubo-FuturismCubo-Futurism
SuprematismSuprematism
ConstructivismConstructivism

Useful Resources on Umberto Boccioni

Books

Articles

The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.

biography

Boccioni's Materia: A Futurist Masterpiece and the Avant-garde in Milan and Paris Recomended resource

By Emily Braun, Flavio Fergonzi, Giovanna Ginex, Umberto Boccioni

Umberto Boccioni

By Ester Coen

Umberto Boccioni: Dynamism of a Speeding Horse: A Catalogue

By Philip Rylands

More Interesting Books about Umberto Boccioni
Umberto Boccioni:
Estorick Collection, London

By Jonathan Jones
The Guardian (UK)
January 27, 2009

Impossible Dreams of a Speed Freak Recomended resource

By Laura Cumming
The Observer (UK)
January 18, 2009

Art Review; Blurring the Line Between the Present and the Future Recomended resource

By Grace Glueck
The New York Times
February 13, 2004

ART; Futuristic Works That Define Dimensions of Time and Space

By D. Dominick Lombardi
The New York Times
September 26, 1999

More Interesting Articles about Umberto Boccioni

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Content compiled and written by Justin Wolf

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Justin Wolf
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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