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Art Movements in Art History - Futurism 1913 - 1915

Art Movements > Futurism > Futurism 1913 - 1915

Futurism 1913 - 1915*

The most important exhibition this year was held in February in Rome Interest in
Futurist work was by now fairly widespread and extended as far as America where the
Futurists were invited to participate in the Armoury show.

All the Futurists except Balla came out in print, breaking the monopoly held by Marinetti
and Boccioni. Little new was added in terms of theory, but personal interests and
emphases were introduced, indicating that the painters would be following different
paths. This aspiring need to be individual conflicted to some extent with the ideal of group
activity. Previously the Futurist painters felt free to cooperate within the framework of
activity. Previously the Futurist painters felt free to cooperate within the framework of'
their common aims: Carra was inspired by Boccioni's States of Mind, and Balla switched
in 1913 from Iridescent Interpenetrations to an idiom closer to that of Boccioni.
Moreover, although Soffici and the Florentines had joined the Futurists, this did not imply
blanket acceptance of Futurist programmes. Soffici, particularly, implied some reserve by
his support of the Cubist "static absolute".

Marinetti published a more revolutionary version of the Technical Manifesto (the original
dates from 1910). He turned increasingly to theatre and ventured into the plastic arts that
year, making assemblages and free-word compositions. He also wrote Manifesto,
Imagination without Strings ---- Words in Freedom (June).

Carra published a Manifesto of Sounds, Noises and Smells (August). It was based on an
analysis of sensations evoked by materials.

Russolo published a Manifesto of the Art and Noise. He gave up painting during that year,
remained in Paris and became a composer of Noise music. He developed a noise machine
called the Intonarumori (noise organ) or Russolophone, which made noises that were
mechanical and similar to everyday sounds without actually imitating them. These he
arranged in some sort of rhythmic or harmonic pattern.

The most important activity of this year is Boccioni's move into sculpture. His Manifesto
of Sculpture had been published in April the year before. (The manifesto is reproduced in
Chipp's Theories.) In it he discusses his problem and proposes to find a sculptural
equivalent for the interplay between the dynamism of an object and the dynamism of
environment - as well as finding ways of freeing sculpture from representation and
material limitations. His intention is clear: sculpture must move towards ideas that had
already appeared in painting. Also contained in the Manifesto is an ambition to surpass
the Cubists. In some ways Boccioni achieves this. The body of sculpture exhibited that
year runs parallel with the development of Picasso's constructions.

Eleven works were shown at Galerie La Boetie in Paris. Only four of these survive. The
earliest works of this series show combinations of different materials both art and non-
art. Some of these represent parts of the environment which cut into the figure in much the
same way as the environment entered figures in the paintings --- for example, Homage to
Mother. The titles of the sculptures explain the artists' intention, Fusion of a Head and
Window, Head + House + Light.

The sculpture, Development of a Bottle in Space, is made in a traditional medium but
proposes, formally, something quite radical. It is both an open and closed view of the bottle;
it is a still-life object (it predates Picasso's Absinthe Glass by a year) but, most significantly,

it fulfils Boccioni's plan for sculpture by showing, in three-dimensional terms, dynamic
forces in operation on an object. The culmination in this series of sculptures is the Unique
Forms of Continuity in Space. It is of a striding figure. The title explains the dynamic
intention but conceals the human aspects. Portions of the anatomy have been pulled out into
shell-like forms typical of his paintings. The "pulling out" is used to show motion. Thanks to
this, and to the feet (which have been set on separate blocks) a fairly convincing impression
of' continuous motion has been achieved.

During 1914 Boccioni made one more sculpture which relates directly to the horse and
riders he was working on in his painting. It is closer to a Picasso-kind of assemblage.

During 1913/1914 Severini, like Delaunay, became increasingly concerned with
sensations of light and moved into abstract painting. His ideas echo the theories of
analogy that Marinetti had proposed in 1912 in his Technical Manifesto of Literature.
The word "synthesis" is found frequently in his writings at this time.

Although Futurist theory contained political references, politics itself played a minor role
in Futurism until the Autumn of 1913. With the change in international affairs, Marinetti
felt the need for a political commitment and directed Futurist artists to live the war
"pictorially". He was moved to write a political manifesto published in Lacerba of 15
October. Marinetti urged Italy's involvement in the war -- on the side opposing Austria.

Futurist concerts, demonstrations, and performances still continued. The movement
gained in international momentum and the number of members grew.

The last important exhibition was the First Free International Exhibition of Futurist Art
held in Rome during April 1914.

Carra pursued a concept of total art which incorporated a desire to go beyond the bounds
of traditional art arising from his Manifesto of Sounds, Noises and Smells. His methods
combined adaptations of synthetic Cubist notions and free-word structures. His Circular
Synthesis of Objects and Patriotic Celebration (July 1914) are examples of these. The
latter is a free-word "painting" with a propagandist intention. It is made from various
"real" materials of communication containing lettering (eg newspapers, leaflets and
labels). It also contains within itself certain noise implications through the representa-
tions of onomatopoeic sounds.

Severini produced propagandist paintings for the war, at Marinetti's instigation. He
changed his approach for these, working from specific objects rather than through a
process of analogies.

Marinetti's contribution to the arts that year was in free-word composition. He wrote a
pamphlet entitled Zang Tumb Tumb which was published in Milan in 1914, and in which
type forms of different sizes were distributed in an apparently random manner.

Boccioni's book Pittura, Scultura, Futuriste was published.

Balla and Canguillo signed the Manifesto of Anti-neutral Clothes.

Antonio Sant 'Elia was an architect who, together with Marinetti, wrote a Manifesto of
Futurist Architecture. Architecture, more than the other arts, could more directly
accommodate the needs of an industrial society.

In May of 1915 Italy entered the war. Marinetti met Mussolini in 1915 and subsequently Futurism
was associated with Fascism. Some of the ideological origins of Fascism are to be found in
Futurism, although Fascism restricted individualism. In the early stages of Fascism
Mussolini found Marinetti a useful organiser.

Severini remained in Paris and turned more and more towards a synthetic Cubist style.
Carra joined up and was wounded. He met de Chirico in hospital and started to paint in a
metaphysical manner.

Boccioni and Sant 'Elia volunteered and were both dead by 1916. Russolo and Marinetti
also joined up and were both wounded in 1917. Balla still painted and became the only old
member of the First Futurist group who continued working for the Second Futurist group.

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

 




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