As we turn the page and face a new year, I wanted to talk about an artistic movement that dared to break with the past and create a unique, forward-thinking expression of the world.
The movement I refer to is — Futurism.
In retrospect, Futurism might seem a little outdated — being over 110 years old and all. But, still, at the time, it was considered rebellious, intellectual, and dynamic. It was a means of viewing the world through a new lens. One that dismissed decadence and tradition and focused instead on speed, movement, power, growth, and improvement.
Spear-heading this artistic movement was the
Italian artist Umberto Boccioni, who worked
in the years before the First World War.
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 thought, was to represent movement, the experience of flux, and the interpenetration of objects.
Boccioni summed up this concept with the phrase “physical transcendentalism.”
Born in 1882 in Reggio Calabria, but living most of his life in Genoa, Boccioni studied classical art and Impressionism. As a very young man, he met Gino Severini, and together they became students of Giacomo Balla. Balla was a painter who focused on the modern Divisionist technique, painting with divided rather than mixed colors, creating stippled fields of dots and stripes — an Italian take on Pointillism.
But, Boccioni was soon to leave Impressionism and Pointillism
behind and instead, turn an artistic page
to embrace something entirely new.
In Milan, Boccioni met Tomasso Marinetti, an Italian poet who published the Futurist Manifesto in 1909. Marinetti, firmly believed all artistic ties to the past should be broken. His ideas were violent and cruel and later linked to anarchism and Fascism. But the ideas presented by Marinetti — that of creating a new artistic vision resonated with Bocciano and he, along with Severini and several other Futurist artists took these concepts to heart and traveled to Paris and met Braque and Picasso. In France, the Italian artists also met Alexander Archipenko, and Raymond Duchamp-Villon.
It was during this period in Paris that
the Futurism movement began to
take real shape.
Painting with a fresh eye and mindset, Boccioni claimed:
“While the impressionists paint a
picture to give one particular moment
and subordinate the life of the picture to its resemblance to this moment,
we synthesize every moment
(time, place, form, color-tone) and
thus paint the picture.”
Who knows what Boccioni might have accomplished if he hadn’t died at the young age of thirty-three.
Like his fellow Futurists, he was an ardent interventionist and campaigned for Italy’s entry into World War I on the side of the Allies. In 1915, after Italy entered the war, he joined the fight. In August 1916, during a cavalry exercise, Boccioni fell from his horse and died the next day.
And yet, despite his early demise, 110 years later, Boccioni remains the best-known artist of the Futurist movement.
As we greet 2020, I hope you do it with the intent that inspired Boccioni — out with the old and the things that don’t work anymore and focus instead on creating a better vision of the world and future for us all.
P.s. As you charge off into the New Year — do your best to stay up on that horse and don’t fall off!