Umberto Boccioni Futurist Spokesmen and Artist

Umberto Boccioni was born in Reggio, Calabria on October 10, 1882 and lived until August 17, 1916. While he was born in Southern Italy, he moved around a great deal and spent a large amount of his childhood years in Sicily. He hadn’t developed exhibiting a great deal of an affinity for art, however. It was not until 1901 that he showed any fascination with art in any way.

He moved at that point to Rome and started to learn Art. As a formally trained artist he trained under Giacoma Balla, a famous painter of that time. Boccioni also continued his studies at various art schools. He was a painter first and then eventually became a accomplished sculptor, as well. In 1906 he relocated very briefly to Russia with a family he had encountered while in France. In April of 1907 Boccioni was in Venice practicing etching. From 1907 to 1909 Boccioni tried using various subjects and techniques.

During his limited lifetime, he became renowned for his work as a sculptor and painter. Like many of his contemporaries, he became a futurist. Typical of that time period he wanted to express motion along with speed and technology within his work. In 1909 Boccioni truly found himself in the Futurist movement.

Possibly it is an understatement to say he had been a part of the Futurist movement when he actually co-wrote the majority of the ideas of the movement along with poet, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. In 1910 Boccioni wrote The Manifest of the Futurist Painter together with other painters. It was in 1914 that they published this statement about the Futurists, “While the impressionists make a table to give one particular moment and subordinate the life of the table to its resemblance to this moment, we synthesize every moment (time, place, form, color-tone) and thus build the table.” It was in 1913 that he accomplished his most well-known work titled, “Unique Forms of Continuity in Space.” His futurist style combined Neo-Impressionism and Cubism. He stated of the futurists, “What we want to do is to show the living object in its dynamic growth.” Even though many artists avoid commercialism or popularity, Futurists spent a substantial amount of energy promoting their beliefs. They were met with plenty of opposition however, ultra-nationalists were in power and they were more traditional in their beliefs.

Futurists advocated industry and modern technology. They looked forward to the future and wanted to show motion in their art. While it can be hard to discuss the components of artistic expression without viewing them, it is possible to describe some important elements. One of the basic approaches of the futurists was to break lines into pieces or segments at increasingly more intervals. This gave them the feel of acceleration. While the Futurists loved technology, they still used more conventional methods of painting, too. For example large, broad-brush strokes and bright colors were common. Besides being an important movement in its own right, you’ll find it highly influenced later movements such as Surrealism, Art Deco, and Constructivism.

At the start of World War I Boccioni became a ardent nationalist himself and endorsed entering into the war on the side of the allies to regain Italian territory held by Austria. He found himself fighting in the army with a cavalry unit in 1916 and fell off his horse during maneuvers, the horse then stepped on him, and he only survived one more day. Boccioni was the most talented of the futurist painters and his early departure brought the movement to an unexpected end.

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