Umberto Boccioni – Panic in the Disco!

One of my favourite sculptures was created by Italian Futurist, Umberto Boccioni – Unique Forms of Continuity in Space: Some thoughts on Futurism

In terms of paintings, I have been more drawn to Gino Severini and to Carlo Carra, so when this painting appeared on one of the numerous sites I visit, I was more than a little interested:


Rissa in Galleria (1910) – Umberto Boccioni

Born in a southern Italian town in 1889, Boccioni moved to Rome and it was there at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma where he met Gino Severini.  Their tutor was Giacomo Balla and the years of their tutorage coincided with some of the greatest moments in art.

Boccioni excelled in divisionism and the way in which he uses colour and light here is quite spectacular.  The rhythm and movement of the crowd follows a circular motion with the brawl in the centre and the spectators rushing in, men and women, arms raised as they speed towards the commotion sparked by the fight between the two women in green and blue.  The elegance of the clothing of the men and women in the scene is a sharp contrast to the violence of the scene.

When this was created, it was the early days of Futurism’s influence and this quote from Marinetti’s manifesto: “We shall sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and boldness… There is no more beauty except in strife” rings true in this work.




Shadows of the people play an important role in the vibrancy and movement, creating even more of a melee under the streaming electric lights.  Technology was the driving force for the Futurists, and the use of electricity here adds a sense of shock that this type of event can be occurring in a place so modern, so refined as a Cafe in the centre of Milan.

From this point on, all art had no choice but to change with the times it was produced in and the artists of the Futurist movement embraced the change and led the charge into the new century.

“Art is viable when it finds elements in the surrounding environment. Our ancestors drew their subject matter from the religious attitudes which weighed on their souls. We must now learn to draw inspiration from the tangible miracles around us.”

Umberto Boccioni


For more on Boccioni:

The Art Story

The Art Post Blog


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!!