What is Futurism?

Futurism was a modern art movement which started in Italy in the early 20th century. Futurism celebrated technology, progress, and dynamism of the modern life. The founder of Futurism was Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876 – 1944) who announced the birth of the movement in his Futurist Manifesto published in 1909. He was soon joined by the Italian painters Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Giacomo Balla, and Gino Severini.  The most significant contributions of Futurism to world cultural history occurred in the visual arts and poetry. The movement ended with the coming of the World War I.

Notable Futurist Artwork

Umberto Boccioni, Dynamism of a Cyclist, 1913, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy

Umberto Boccioni, The City Rises, Museum of Modern Art, NYC, US

Umberto Boccioni, Laughter, 1916, Museum of Modern Art, NYC, US

Umberto Boccioni, Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, 1913, Museum of Modern Art, NYC, US

Luigi Russolo, La Rivolta, 1911, Kunstmuseum Den Haag, Netherlands

Giacomo Balla, Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash, 1912, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, US

Joseph Stella, Luna Park, 1913, Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC, US

Joseph Stella, Brooklyn Bridge, 1919-1920, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut, US

Gino Severini, Visual Synthesis of the Idea: “War,” 1914, Museum of Modern Art, NYC, US

Gino Severini, Suburban Train Arriving in Paris, 1915, Tate Modern, London, UK

Carlo Carrà, Rhythms of Objects, 1911, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, Italy

Natalia Goncharova, Cyclist, 1913, The State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia

History of Futurism Art

Futurism was first announced on February 5, 1909 in the Italian newspaper Gazzetta dell’Emilia under the title “Manifesto iniziale del Futurismo.” The article was reprinted on February 20, on the front page of the leading French newspaper Le Figaro. From this version, titled “Le Futurisme,” Marinetti and his controversial ideas became world-famous. The tone in the manifesto was provocative, passionate, and purposely intended to stir controversy. It immediately captured the imagination of a group of Italian painters Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Giacomo Balla, Luigi Rusolo, and Gino Severini, who responded with their manifesto on painting the following year. Renouncing the art of the past that they considered obsolete and stagnant, Futurist painters called for art that would capture dynamism, change, and energy of the modern world.

Marinetti chose the name “futurism” to indicate that the new movement offers a vibrant vision of the future, celebrating technology, innovation, and progress. The Futurists rejected traditional values and the old art, which they considered no longer meaningful, calling for the destruction of cultural institutions such as museums and libraries. Instead, they glorified novelty, change, power of the machine, speed, and movement.  They emphasized future over past, youth over experience. Many Italian Futurists supported Fascism in the hope of modernizing Italy. In 1918, Marinetti founded the Futurist Political Party, which became part of Benito Mussolini’s organization The Italian Fasces of Combat.

Characteristics of Futurist Art

In their art, The Futurists wanted to convey the thrilling energy of the technological progress inspired by the mobility of modern life in the early 20th century and the latest developments in science, automobile, and aviation industry. They focused on showing movement and speed perception, often portraying trains, cars, racing cyclists, airplanes as their subjects. They also depicted urban settings, in particular urban crowds. To achieve this, they adopted the Cubist technique of showing multiple viewpoints of an object in the same painting using fragmented plane surfaces. Unlike the Cubists, the Futurist color palette was much brighter and more vibrant. The Futurists manipulated and overlaid images of an object, painting it in rhythmical sequential repetitions to create an illusion of motion. Using repetitive brush strokes and merging colors similar to the late nineteenth-century painting technique called Divisionism, the Futurists animated objects, creating dynamic compositions of swirling forms and row energy.

Legacy of Futurism

Futuristic thematic and stylistic principles extended to sculpture and architecture in Bocconi’s work, and Antonio Sant’Elia’s visionary drawings of a city of the future full of skyscrapers, as well as to other countries, notably Russia. Futurism influenced many other twentieth-century art movements, including Art Deco, Vorticism, Constructivism, and Dadaism. Echoes of Futurist ideas can also be traced much later in modern Western and Far East cinematography and literature like Cyberpunk, and Neo-futurism movement in art, design, and architecture.


Notable Futurist Artists

  • Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876 – 1944), Italian
  • Umberto Boccioni (1882 – 1916), Italian
  • Carlo Carrà (1881 – 1966), Italian
  • Giacomo Balla (1871 – 1958), Italian
  • Luigi Rusolo (1885 – 1947), Italian
  • Gino Severini (1883 – 1966), Italian
  • Natalia Goncharova (1881 – 1962), Russian
  • Joseph Stella (1877 – 1946), Italian-American

Related Art Terms

  • Divisionism
  • Cubism
  • Cubo-Futurism
  • Russian avant-garde
  • Art Deco
  • Vorticism
  • Constructivism
  • Dadaism
  • Cyberpunk
  • Neo-futurism

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