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Surviving Supper: the Futurists

Long silences over the dinner table? Let Lucy J help

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Background

The Futurist movement was founded by the poet Marinetti in Milan, 1909. It was more of an ideological than stylistic movement that denunciated the oppressive past and called for a new society in Italy. The Futurists glorified war, technology, anarchy and speed which was reflected in this quote from their original manifesto, ‘We declare a new beauty, the beauty of speed. A roaring race-car that goes like a machine gun is more beautiful than the winged Victory of Samothrace’.  Artistically their main aims were to represent universal dynamism in their paintings and sculptures and the simultaneity of an experience, to depict the relationship between their human subjects and their surroundings and to show the world as it was experienced, not necessarily as it was.

Style

The Futurists based their works on two main styles: neo-Impressionism and Cubism. They adapted these styles to fit their own subject matter. Neo-Impressionism provided a means of analysing energy, created a sense of dynamism within their works and the vividness of unmixed colours added to the velocity of their paintings. It was also the style of former anarchists and social and artistic reformers whom they admired. Cubism allowed them to depict different viewpoints of the successive positions of figures at once which introduced time into space. Futurist canvases tended to appear abstracted, energetic and vehement with dynamic lines and the breakdown of light and bright colours. Futurist sculpture was similarly dynamic and abstract in the aim to depict movement and the relationship of the subject to its surroundings.

Key Players

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti – founder of the movement and the man wrote the Manifesto of Futurism on 20th February 1909 which was published on the front page of Paris newspaper Le Figaro.

Chief artists included Boccioni (also the chief sculptor), Balla, Severini, Carra and Russolo.

Works to Know

The Street Penetrates the House – Umberto Boccioni 1911 (Sprengel Museum)

The Revolt – Luigi Russolo 1911 (Gemeentemuseum Den Haag)

Unique Forms of Continuity in Space – Umberto Boccioni 1913 (Tate Modern)

Abstract Speed and Sound – Giacomo Balla 1913-1914 (Guggenheim collection)