During the early 1900’s, before the First World War, the Modern world was emerging, and with it, many changes were taking place. Society was now experiencing a new idea of time and distance, for technology had reached a breakthrough in communication and travel, like the invention of the airplane and automobiles. This had an enormous impact on art and culture, and, among other movements, Futurism was one that reflected this new era in history. The poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti was the first to write about the ideals of the Futurism in 1909. He glorified new technologies while rejecting traditional values in his Futurism Manifest published in the Italian journal La Gazzetta dell’Emma. This had a significant influence on literature, music, design, cinema and specifically the visual arts.
The Manifesto of the Futurist Painters was published in March of 1910 by a group of five artists that included Carlo Carrà, Giacomo Balla, Gino Severini, Luigi Russolo, and, the most active, Umberto Boccioni. In this manifest, the artists declared that the art critics were useless, asking for people not to see the past nostalgically and positively. They embraced the cultural changes of the modern culture and its ongoing industrialization. The Futurists also were against religious fanaticism, and they believed this was fed by the existence of museums. Only art that was inserted in its environment was considered vital for these painters, and they despised any imitation. The manifest made it clear that there was a shift from the faith in the religious atmosphere to a new confidence in the miracles of technology and the contemporary life itself.
Nearly a month later, the group published another article called Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painters to further enlighten the public about how their ideas reflect on their work. Their primary concern was to translate the dynamism of movement graphically – as they saw the quickness of the modern times. They declared to be against the superficial archaism of Classic art and frowned upon the representation of the nude, as it was seen as oppressive. The group was a bit radical as they condemned museums and all ancient art. They were self-proclaimed “Lords of Light,” as they said to drink from the fountains of the Sun.
The group was strongly influenced by the Pointillism style of the Post-impressionist, Paul Signac and how he separated colors in his paintings. This results in the Futurist painters to use this technique they don’t physically mix the colors to portray the sense of speed – a complement to the themes they used, like transportation with images of bicycles, trains, and automobiles. This can be seen in Balla’s painting Speed of an Automobile, as he inserts the spectator in the center of his work. In 1911, the Futurist artists started to paint movement with a more systematic method, as a consequence of their contact with Cubism.
Boccioni gets to know the Analytical Cubism of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque and the way they fragment the planes. Because of this influence, he realized a series of paintings dedicated to representing dynamism and was able to accomplish a unity between matter and space by controlling the energy of the scene in a fragmented style and still suggesting three-dimensional depth with the use of color. One of the paintings of the series is Dynamism of a Cyclist, portraying a figure riding on his bicycle that initially looks abstract. The title itself can lead the viewer in finding the figure inside this expressive painting. The painters of the Futurism believed that when portraying the human figure, the artists must attempt to represent the atmosphere around it, opposed to painting just the figure itself, resulting in a great sense of movement.
The Futurism movement has a strong influence in all of Europe. When the French artist Robert Delaunay paints Eiffel Tower, he is accused by Boccioni of copying the Futurism style. Marinetti wrote the Futurism Manifest of the Vital British Art in 1914 alongside the only British artist of the movement, Christopher Nevinson. In Russia, artists like Natalia Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov join the representation of the movement of Futurism with elements of Cubism and Orphism (a variation of Cubism), to create a new movement called Rayonism.
In 1914, many internal conflicts came about, and two years later, the leading artist of the Futurism passed away, consequently abruptly ending the Futurism movement. Although radical in their thoughts against Classic art and museums, this group of artists was able to portray figurative images abstractly with great movement, resulting in beautifully dynamic paintings.