Estorick Collection

Don’t often write about a venue but I can’t recommend a visit to the Estorick Collection in Islington enough.

Estorick Collection Website

Nestled behind an brick wall, the newly extended and renovared building houses a magical collection of Italian Futurist art, collected by Mr and Mrs Estorick. If you want to see Balla, Carre, Russolo and others from this period, this is the place to visit. 

Regular exhibitions compliment the collection and, at the moment, War in the Italian Sunshine is hosted there. Paintings and drawings by Sydney Carline of his time as a WW1 reconnaissance pilot give a completely different slant on war art as we know it. 

The cafe serves Italian coffee too! 


Post 200-Balla and Stravinsky

I was looking for a suitable painting to evoke the thrill of fireworks in order to wish everyone a happy new year and came across this work from one of my favourite Futurists, Giacomo Balla: 

Further investigation revealed that this was from the set of Ivor Stravinsky’s ballet 

This blog has an extract from Stravinsky’s memoirs about his dealings with the Futurist artists and which reveals a fun side to the artist. It also  includes a little video of the painting set to the music. 

Happy 2017!

Some thoughts on Futurism

In ‘The Foundation and Manifesto of Futurism’ (1909) FT Marinetti, a leading figure in Italian Art culture, ignited a movement that blasted its way onto the world stage in the early 20th century. Marinetti called upon the destruction of museums, libraries and academies in order to reject the rules and functions of these institutions; to shake off the shackles of what constituted ‘art’ in the previous century and free artists, writers and poets to express the new modernity.

Five Italian artists heeded the call and in their work we can see the way in which subject matter and methods to convey it changed: cars moving at speed, the energy of force lines being utilised to show rapid movement, the use of divisionist colour techniques to bring a vitality to a scene, urban landscapes being energised with light. Their 1910 manifesto stated that ‘Everything moves, everything runs, everything changes rapidly’ and this can be seen in five key works:IMG_20160313_123518706.jpg

Giacomo Balla’s ‘Rhythm of the Violinist’ demonstrates the philosophy that ‘moving objects, constantly multiply themselves, they are deformed and succeed each other like vibrations in the space they move through.’ Here we see the rapid movement of the violinist and the influence of cubism cannot be denied here. IMG_20160313_123701686.jpg

This use of vibration is also apparent in Luigi Russolo’s ‘Music’. This employs synesthesia with the use of colour creating the sound. The figure is allegedly Beethoven whose deafness may well have caused him to see his music in this way. Certainly, nothing like this had been created before and it opened up the way for other artists to consider how to portray sound and movement.

Image result for carra leaving the theatre

Carlo Carra looked at this in ‘Leaving the Theatre’. From the manifesto of 1910 “The street soaked by rain beneath the glare of electric lamps, sinks down into the very centre of the earth” and for Carra, what was important was not the actual recreation of a specific scene, but the way in which electric light created an otherworldly atmosphere. The use of the techniques introduced by artists such as Signac allowed the exciting advances to be shown on canvas.

In ‘Suburban Train Arriving in Paris’ (1915) Gino Severini utilized the cubist style portray the dynamic movement of the train cutting through the city, steam billowing as it flies through.


Boccioni's Unique Forms of Continuity in Space with Severini's Suburban Train Arriving in Paris

This movement was not restricted to painting. Umberto Boccioni utilised the concept of moving objects and, inspired by photography that showed movement in sequence, created Unique Forms of Continuity in Space. What at first appears to be some futuristic monster, is actually the movement of a man, striding forward, the ‘wings’ being the air movement.

From Futurism, other movements throughout Europe and America received the green light to break through the restrictions that they felt were holding back expression and form.  Without question, this movement ignited a spark that had been waiting for its catalyst.

Painters of Light – Italian Journey

Rovereto, Trento, Italy: a Tuesday and one of the best exhibitions my journeys have taken me to!

40mins from Verona, Rovereto is a picturesque town that clearly loves its art and culture.

The Museo d’Arte dear Rovereto-Trentino was a surprise in itself:

This review of the exhibition describes it much better than I can, so is worth a read first.


The way this exhibition guides you chronologically through the impact of Divisionism through to the frenetic Futurists was informative and it also introduced me to a number of artists I had not come across before. The first quote you see from a letter Segantini wrote in 1887 fits beautifully:

If modern art is to have a character it is that seeking light in colour.

The early exponants were inspired by the most advanced scientific research on light and colour and you see this in the works of Segantini, Angelo Morbelli, Baldassare Longoni and, Vittore Grubicy de Dragon, to name a few.  Their works used the divisionist technique, with meticulous brushstrokes combining with the idea of colours complimenting each other, to produce works that glowed on canvas:

The realism of the works, combined with symbolism were ripe for this new technique.  The view of Verona by Longoni, fully embraced the pontillist style and the way in which light is portayed in the Morbelli painting of the patients of the hospice was truly magnificent.  Morbelli was attempting to “illuminate the melancholic passing of time. His works fully embrace that melancholy and he is worth exploring further:

Angelo Morbelli – Italian Divisionist

Of course, Segantini and I have met before at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and also in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. More on him on another day, I think!   This work sits in the realistic realms but is also symbolic.  The old woman returns home at the end of the day, her early tracks in the snow lead her back home again.  This is a task she undertakes daily and represents the relentless pursuit of a living within nature.  Segantini’s depiction of light is stunning and it was here I found out that he used gold and silver filaments in his work.  In this example, the light reflects off the snow due to the dense interweave of silver, blue and white filaments.

This work by Carlo Fornara, who was greatly influenced by Segantini, was one of the standout pieces due to its sheer brilliance of light contasting with the weary figure in the foreground:


L’aquilone (1902-1904)

This ‘revolution of light’ led to the avant-garde movement and with the combined technique of decompostion of forms and the way in which society was moving and changing at a rapid pace, you can see how the Futurists came into being.

The Futurist works that stood out for me were:

The permanent collection will have to wait for its own post, as the works at MART were truly stunning.  So pleased that I was able to get to see such an amazing collection in a beautiful setting, and to make the connections – it’s all starting to make sense now!!