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! 

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!!


Futurism in Islington

I’ve been on the lookout for new galleries to visit and found a beauty in Islington: the Estorick Collection.

This is a collection of paintings, lithographs and drawing from the Futurist artists. Amongst the paintings was a wonderful find: Music by Luigi Russolo.


Having only seen it in a book, I was so excited to find this.





Luigi Russolo and a Dystopian Vision

I love connections, so what links the following:


Autoritratto con teschi, 1908

Luigi Russolo, Yevgeny Zamyatin and John Cage?

Reading Electronic Sound, I was interested to see how John Cage predicted the future of music. Cage said, in 1937, “I believe that the use of noise to make music will continue and increase unti we reach a music produced through the aid of electrical instruments”. The article linked Cage’s theories to Luigi Russolo’s ‘The Art of Noises’ manifesto from 1913 which linked to with the Futurists at that time.  Russolo foresaw a time when automation would be at the forefront of music when he said, “This is why we get infinitely more pleasure imagining combinations of the sounds of trolleys, autos and other vehicles, and loud crowds, than listening once more, for instance, to the heroic or pastoral symphonies.”  Russolo invented his own musical machine to produce ‘Classic Industrial Noise Experimental Music’:

Russolo was also an artist and his work has a vibrant quality to it that allows us to visualise the impact that industry and technology was having on us at that time. The paintings draw on sound waves to demonstrate movement and this gives the paintings an ethereal quality that is sometimes lacking in other futurist works:


Dynamism of a Car 1912-1913



La Rivolta, 1911


Solidity of Fog





There was one other connection and that was to the Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin. In 1921, he wrote a dystopian novel, We, set in the 26th century where he explores the way in which humanity has been irradicated through technological supremacy.  The formation of ‘One-State’ is designed to create happiness based around mathematical formulae to solve the problems of society.  Where the links with Russolo and Cage occurs is the moment we find out how music is to be produced in One-State: “The phono-lecturer began the description of the recently invented musicometer. “… By merely rotating this handle anyone is enabled to produce about three sonatas per hour. What difficulties our predecessors had in making music! They were able to compose only by bringing themselves to attacks of inspiration, an extinct form of epilepsy.”
Yevgeny Zamyatin, We

And that is how we can link three men living out of time.