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futurism


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Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876—1944) Italian poet and dramatist

Giacomo Balla (1871—1958)

Umberto Boccioni (1882—1916)

Carlo Carrà (1881—1966)

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Italian avant-garde art movement, launched in 1909, that exalted the dynamism of the modern world; it was literary in origin, but most of its major exponents were painters, and it also embraced sculpture, architecture, music, the cinema, and photography. The First World War brought the movement to an end as a vital force, but it lingered in Italy until the 1930s, and it had a strong influence in other countries. The founder and chief theorist of Futurism was the Italian writer Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876–1944), and the main painters involved were Balla, Boccioni, Carrà, Russolo, and Severini. The aim of the movement, which was outlined in various manifestos (including two on painting (both 1910) and one on sculpture (1912), was to break with the past and its academic culture and to celebrate modern technology, dynamism, and power. In trying to work out a visual idiom to express such concerns, the Futurist painters at first were strongly influenced by Divisionism, in which forms are broken down into small patches of colour—suitable for suggesting sparkling effects of light or the blurring caused by high-speed movement. From 1911, however, some of them—influenced by Cubism—began using fragmented forms and multiple viewpoints, often accentuating the sense of movement by vigorous diagonals. The subjects of the Futurist painters were typically drawn from urban life, and they were often political in intent, but at times their work came close to abstraction. Marinetti had a prodigious talent for publicity (backed by substantial inherited wealth) and Futurism was promoted not only through exhibitions but also by lectures, press conferences, and various attention-seeking stunts, some of which foreshadowed Performance art.

In keeping with this inclination for self-promotion, the Futurists had widespread influence in the period immediately before and during the First World War. Stylistically, the influence is clear in the work of the Vorticists and Nevinson in England, for example, and in that of Marcel Duchamp in France and Joseph Stella in the USA, while the use of provocative manifestos and other shock tactics was most eagerly adopted by the Dadaists. Outside Italy, however, it was in Russia that Futurism made the greatest impact, although there were significant differences between the movements in the two countries: Russian Futurism was expressed as much in literature and the theatre as in the visual arts, and it combined modern ideas with an interest in primitivism. In terms of Russian painting, Futurism was particularly influential on Rayonism, which flourished c.1912–14.

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