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Art Movements in Art History - Futurism 1909 - 1910

Art Movements > Futurism > Futurism 1909 - 1910

Futurism 1909 - 1910*

20 February 1909. The Foundation Manifesto was published on the front page of Le Figaro
in Paris. This action formally launched the movement. It was here that Futurism was largely
codified: subsequent amendments and additions were written but there were no radical
deviations from these first postulates. In boisterous, extravagant language the Manifesto
exalted youth, speed, action, violence, science, dynamism, the machine, the modern. It
vociferously rejected contemporary society's values and dismissed artistic tradition. It
demanded that artists be active in bringing about change and, above all else, that they be
original.

The Manifesto was written by Marinetti, an Italian poet, after ten years' deliberation on
the changing world. Marinetti became the leader of the Futurists whom he encouraged to
take action and whom he backed financially. He masterminded the movement with the skill
of a political campaign organiser. Many Futurist methods were borrowed from the
anarchists and used primarily to shock the public.

The Manifesto was later reissued as a series in Poesia (Milan) and read aloud by
Marinetti in Turin. Futurism was initially a literary movement. The Manifesto was
addressed to poets and writers and it predates any Futurist art. However, tendencies that
were later endorsed by Futurism can be found in some of the early work of the participating
artists, most significantly the social and heavy emotional content of paintings by Balla and
Boccioni.

Futurism was an Italian movement, despite the fact that the first manifesto was
published in France. The reaction to society voiced in the manifesto was directed towards
Italian society. The Futurists questioned the Italian right to remain satisfied and reassured
i}y a cultural past without taking account of contemporary advances in thinking and
painting. Italian society was, to them, stagnant; Italy was a backwater. (In fact, Italy had a
fairly advanced technology which had created the very prosperity and confidence from
which the Futurists had emerged.)

Italian art of the time was a mixture of naturalist (verismo) Symbolist, Art Nouveau and
Neoimpressionist features. Only Neoimpressionism offered possibilities for the future since
very little was known of advances made in Paris and Germany. The Italian variation of Neo-
mpressionism (Divisionism) differed from the French in that it was more involved with
Fixture and emotional expression than with an analysis of colour for optical effects. In their
use of Neoimpressionism, Kozloff comments that the Futurists were supporting
an art already dismissed in France.

However, inherent to Italian Divisionism was an energising of colour and light which
could be exploited for "dynamism" purposes, as well as a handling that permitted a
personal interpretation of images. In a sense, the Futurists had to operate with the past in
order to advance. It made them strongly, almost chauvinistically, aware
of their Italian origins.

The Manifesto of the Futurist Painter was read by Boccioni on 18 March from the stage of
.he Teatro Chiarella in Turin. It was signed by five painters from Milan -- Boccioni, Carra,
Russolo, Bonzagni and Romani. (The last two did not remain members for long.) Five weeks
later, on 11 April, five artists again signed a manifesto (Boccioni, Carra, Russolo, Balla ---
:iving in Rome -- and Severini - based in Paris). Futurist Painting: Technical Manifesto
was published by Poesia.

At this point there were great gaps between the programme as formulated and the
paintings as produced. The painters had yet to find an appropriate pictorial language.

 

Next: Futurism 1911 - 1912 >>


* Drawn from notes compiled by R. Becker for the University of South Africa

 




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