The early twentieth century art movement known as The Futurism Art Movement is considered an Italian Art movement. The development of the types of art in this era was the direct response to other artistic movements. This movement celebrated technology, speed, violence, modernity, and youth. In many ways, it glorified war and supported Fascism. The Futurism movement covered many areas like, paintings, architecture, literature, textiles, ceramics, theatre, film, and industrial design. Futurism is viewed as a direct contrast to Romanticism. Futurists love machines, noise, speed, pollution, and city life. They embraced the new unknown world of technological advances in the twentieth century. The most influential personality of the Futuristic Art Movement was Flippo Tommaso Marinetti. He is credited with launching the movement when he published an article that expressed his passion about some ideals that many people were not embracing at the time. In addition to their manifestos, Futurists also organized meetings, performed absurdities, many of which ended in riots. Early Futurists had hoped that this movement would lead to an international revolution, but the move only thrived in Italy until the late 1940s. The futurists had hoped that this movement would influence social thinking in culmination to the arts. Nonetheless, its influence was only prominent in Russia, Germany, and Great Britain. The Futuristic Art Movement had a great impact on literature, music, visual arts, design, cinema, and theatre and can still be observed today.
Pace of movement was a theme very prevalent in Futuristic Art. Giacomo Balla used the technique of diagonal lines to create the movement of speed. He used multiple circles to suggest the fast movement of the car. “The chaotic placement of each element does a great job at appealing to our emotions” said Gordon. Speeding car (1913) and Speeding car plus lights by Balla are very popular Futuristic pieces. Unlike Balla who explored speeding cars and light, Umberto Boccioni was mostly interested in the movement of life. Boccioni used imaginary representation of subjects by representing them through curvilinear patterns. States of Mind, Those Who Stay (1911) and States of Mind, Those Who Go (1911) depict the movement of crowds of people. Futurists’ artists focused on more than merely painting. According to (White 1990)
“F. T. Marinetti along with the artists that he gathered around him wrote manifestos not only on literature, music, dance, performance, painting, architecture, etc. but also on almost all aspects touching everyday life, such as clothing, food, smells, war, and lust. Futurism was the first attempt in the 20th century to reinvent life as it was being transfixed by new technologies and conceive of a new race in the form of machine-extended man. Futurism succinctly reiterated a cognate set of ideas which reverberates all through a multitude of forms in 20th century art expression.”3
For example, Fortunato Depero’s designed a magazine cover (An ode to the 20th century, Magazine cover (1929), and Free-word composition letter addressed to Marinetti (1916) thorough varying text design. The images creating an optical illusion by having elements decrease in size from right to left. This technique accomplishes movement by directing the eye to move from word to word by using green arrow-like lines. Futurist Artists also had an impact on the views of World War I. Gino Severini’s Guns in action conveys a war scene by combining text, lines, and illustrations. The line creates a disorderly motion of movement and draws the viewer sight to the center of the work with the word “BBOUMM” in bold.
The industrial theme was also very prevalent in Futurist Art. In the World’s Fair work, flying airplanes, cities, and lights are all clearly industrial themes. All Futurists Artists embraced the industrial themes. Futurist Antonio Sant’Elia expressed his ideas of modernity in his drawing of La Citta` Nuova during 1912-1914. Sadly, this project was never built because Sant’ Elia was killed in World War I. In his drawing, Sant’Elia replaced the landscape setting with the excitement of modern life. He aim was to create a city that was as fast paced and efficient as a machine. In his mind, this city was not supposed to last. Consequently, each generation would be responsible for building its own city, not inheriting one. Railway stations, maritime resorts, and post offices were built by Futurists architects during the years of 1920-1940. The Florence station was designed by Gruppo Toscano in 1932 and is still in use today.
Futuristic Art had underlining political aspects as well. Often, Futurist acted out plays and poetry to convey their outrage with political views in Italy at the time. Michael Kirby says,
“Performances of Futurist poetry were meant to outrage and wake up an audience, in a time when poetry had largely become a plaything of the idle rich. Poetry was often presented in the late nineteenth century cultured drawing rooms with wine, caviar, and a bought romantic poet with slicked-back hair: doing his best to capture the poetic affectations of the times and pretending to be an Oscar Wilde clone, complete with a dead lily. The Futurists on the other hand, acting as if they were the Vikings or Hell’s Angels of Art, were intent in trashing such cultivated and stylized aesthetics completely. Their performances often ended in riots with several members of the audience in the hospital and several Futurists ending up in jail.”
The style of poetry used by Futurists was called parole in liberta`. In this style, the poet rejects meter and the world becomes his main concern. By using this, Futurists were able to create their own language free from syntax, punctuation, and normality. Ironically, this is the same concept they had about life. So in some ways, their poetic expression personified the life they wanted to live. They used this same type of strategy in the theatre. Futuristic works are often only a few sentences long, place emphasis on nonsensical humor, and attempt to discredit traditional theatrical techniques (Gordon 1990). Marinetti has been quoted saying,
“We want to fight ferociously against the fanatical, unconscious and snobbish religion of the past, which is nourished by the evil influence of museums. We rebel against the supine admiration of old canvases, old statues and old objects, and against the enthusiasm for all that is worm-eaten, dirty and corroded by time; we believe that the common contempt for everything young, new and palpitating with life is unjust and criminal.”1
Influence on Music
Futurists influenced music by rejecting traditional sounds for sounds inspired by machinery. Several 20th century composers were influenced by Futurists. One of those influenced was Francesco Balilla Pratella, who joined the movement in 1910. He wrote a Manifesto of Futurist Musicians. In this work he wanted to appeal to the young because he felt only they could understand what he was saying. In his opinion, Italian music was inferior to music elsewhere. Another musician who was influenced by Futurists was Luigi Russolo who wrote The Art of Noises in 1913. This text was influential in the aesthetics of 20th century music.
The roots of Futurism have influenced other twentieth century art movements, including Dada and Constructivism. Although Futurism became extinct in 1944, its ideals remain a significant part of Western culture. Emphasis on speed, youth, power, and technology are still a part of modern culture. The Futuristic Movement was attempted to be revived in the late 1980s with the Neo-Futurist style of theatre in the Chicago area. Although there are currently Neo-Futurists troupes in Chicago, New York, and Montreal the trend has not become as popular as it was in the early 1900s.
- Gordon, R.S. “The Italian Futurist Theatre: Reappraisal.” The Modern Language Review, 1990: 349-61.
2.Kirby, Micahael. Futurist Performance, with manifestos and playscripts translated from the Italian by Victoria Kirby. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1971.
3.White, John. Literary Futurism: Aspects of Perception of the First Avant-grade. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990.
 (Gordon 1990)
 (Kirby 1971)
 (White 1990)