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Futurism in The Early 20th Century

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Futurism began in Italy in the early 20th century. A group of Italian artists were interested in Mechanical & Technological arena’s and the speed at which developments were occurring.

Their goal was to embody the energy of the constantly evolving world. They discovered better ways to capture movement in art, by using overlapping and blurring of outlines. Through this, they better captured the energy and power o forms moving through space.

Primarily cubism and the flattening of pictorial space influenced futurism. Other influences were impressionism’s urban subject matter, post-impressionism and the phenomenon of speed.

Futuristic artworks often depicted machines, athletes or cities; sometimes abstracted. They conveyed the power and movement of the modern revolution. Artists used overlapping forms flattening of pictorial, space bright colours, Seurat’s method of divisionism and urban subject matter. The artworks often had a patriotic, aggressive and fearless theme. Futurists believed that beauty could only exist in a struggle.

The founding member of the futurists was Umberto Boccioni. Other member artists include:

  1. Carlo Carra
  2. Giacoma Balla
  3. Gino Severini
  4. Luigi Fussolo and the Dadaist; Marcel Duchamp

Umberto Boccioni was born in Italy in 1882 and 1916. He was the founding member and leader of the futurist movement.

He was influenced by the divisionist theories of Giacoma Balla and he had a great in the interaction of visual art and psychology. He was technically inventive and focused on the effects of industrialisation.

He was very strict when it came to aesthetic considerations and this is what ultimately led him to become a great futurist painter and sculptor.

Examples of the beauty of his colours can be seen in his paintings, “the city rises” 1910-11 and “riot in the gallery” 1909.

He uses 20th century subject matter and greatly influenced by Seurat’s pointillism and cubist simultaneity.

Giacoma Balla He was older than the other four members of the futurist group. He was born 1871 and died at the age of 87 in 1958. He preferred to work in Rome than in Milan where he had performed his own distinctive experiments, particularly in motion of objects through the medium of paint.

In his painting named “Dynamism of a dig on a leash” he had painted a series of arms and legs which portrayed the motion of the dog on the leash, this was a delightful creation of futurist simultaneity.

Balla was a lyrical painter who achieved his effects without the noise and violence of some of his colleagues.

“The street lamp- Study of light” is a painting done by Giacoma Balla. This is oil on canvas and was finished in 1909.

It shows a street lamp at night, casting a bright light on the pavement below. The individual light particles are depicted in George Seurat’s divisionist style and paint application.

He has a bold interplay of spherical and fragmented curvilinear elements.

Balla painted this subject matter because of the new technological breakthrough in Italy at the time. The futurism movement was based on the fast moving pace at which technological advancements were occurring.

The composition consists of a single street lamp, which sprays out a bright halo of warm light. It is meant to give out a feeling of satisfaction towards the new breakthroughs in electricity. The focal point of the painting is the bright globe in the centre. The colours are predominantly warm and comforting.


Thus, in this essay I have proven and discussed the accomplished goals of the Futurists of the early 20th century. This group of artists embodied the energy of the constantly changing world in the fierce passion of their art..

I have discussed the influences on the movement, characteristics, member artists and specific artworks.

Futurism captured the speed and power of the rapidly advancing technology of the time.

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