" The pen is mightier than the sword! "
At one time or another we have all been exposed to this statement
and have felt the strength contained in these 7 little words. We understand that
the written word, when used with authority, can cut us deeper than the keenest
edge of the sharpest rapier
When applied to the art world this cliché can also be adapted to hold true that
the brush is mightier than the sword. Alone, the written word is an extremely
powerful form of communicating our thoughts, ideas, likes and dislikes.
But when one combines script with the philosophies and styles of the visual arts
the two become a combustible material that may very well explode into a movement
guaranteed to send concussion waves throughout the entire world.
Art movements are born out of the need for people to express their reactions to
social, political and religious changes. Whether they accept them or openly
disdain them the goals are equal in velocity: To promote their perspective of
In most situations, new movements will gradually appear on the art scene. As the
movement grows it will offer the artists an opportunity to explore new
philosophies while extending an invitation for them to enlist among the ranks,
adopt some of the ideas or continue to remain loyal to their current trend.
The new movement will no doubt meet with resistance from critics and patrons
alike, who usually perceive the new movement as nothing more than an unsolicited
crusade with little or no hope of survival. The artists, on the other hand,
adamant that the message conveyed through their art is critical, will continue
to push forward with their movement until it gains acceptance or has reached its
apex and has nothing new to offer in the way of ideas.
No other Modern Art faction in the annals of art history has been so bold and
aggressive as the Futurism movement that rose out of the heart of Italy. Openly
and piercingly these artist declared their discontentment with their modern
society. They denounced traditional conventionalism demanded social changes and
took liberty at pointing out all of the faults that would disband what they had
viewed as a corrupt government.
Futurism, was by all means a premeditated movement with a published manifesto
long before the actual art movement got underway. It was a movement born out of
the boredom of Romanticism, debauchery and sappiness. These artists and their
followers desired something more akin to the Machine Age.
They thrived on the impressions of speed, noise, and machines, communications
and information that had become a large part of the nineteenth-century cities.
They hated the untamed, middle-class virtues and tastes and more importantly;
they detested the factions of the past.
The moniker Futurism was actually coined by Italian poet, publisher and artist
Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1886-1949) in 1909. He toyed with many other
possibilities including Dynamism and Electricity before actually selecting
He struggled to choose a name that would suggest the ambiance of the Machine
Age. The selected title would not be limited to strictly the visual arts. By the
time Marinetti and his disciples were through they had a written manifesto that
would cover every area of human existence; from art and literature to clothing,
food, furniture, cooking, poetry and even the sexual desires of the population.
Needless to say they had accomplished their goals of provoking the population
into anger and confusion. They even openly condemned the values of academies,
libraries and museums and suggested that these institutions be destroyed.
The Futurists were avid proponents of violence and conflict and their powerful
and bold promotions of their movement confirmed this attitude. It was not
uncommon for their exhibitions to end in the injury of patrons and the
incarceration of several of the artists.
Tired of what they had considered to be "hand-me down" art movements,
Marinetti along with Umberto Boccioni and Giacomo Balla made clear their
dissatisfaction as they promoted their ideas to the public.
They held little regard to the attitude of their country for the basic
foundation of their movement thrived on the anger, confusion, controversy and
widespread attention that was incited.
Marinetti, as poet and publisher, recognized the power of the press so it stands
without question why he published his summation of his manifesto prior to
launching his assault wave against the present artists encouraging them to shun
all conventional art theories for the new ideas of the Futurists.
At a 1909 summit of painters and poets, Marinetti and his entourage had worked
out the final details to the Visual Arts manifesto. By February of 1910, with
all of the kinks ironed out, a more specific and clearly defined " Futuristic
Painting: Technical Manifesto" was in print.
However, it would still take a better part of the year before the works of
charter members; Carlo Carra (1881-1966), Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916) and Luigi
Russolo (1885-1947) would begin to demonstrate the radical and revolutionary
changes subscribed to by the manifesto.
Artists Aroldo Bonzagni (1817-1887) and Romolo Romani, who had signed early with
the movement quickly dropped out and were replaced by French artist Gino
Severini (1883-1966) of Paris and the aforementioned Giacomo Balla of Rome, all
of whom would eventually become a close-knit family of Futurists.
From the very beginning of the Futurists Movement there had arose some confusion
as to whether Futurism was actually an offspring of the Cubism Movement. The
apparent confusion resulted when French Cubists in Paris had read the technical
manifesto and misinterpreted some of the information to be Cubism based.
The Italians, determined for their movement to maintain the independence under
which it was born, vehemently and repeatedly noted the visible differences
between the two movements in letters that were published in the Florence based
In spite of the continuous corrections issued by the Italian artists, there
still existed a degree of misunderstanding primarily due to the fact that
Boccioni, Carra and Severini, residing in Paris and familiar with the Cubists
movement, would utilize certain aspects of Cubism to suit their needs in
Following their first exhibition in Milan on April 30th 1911 and in conjunction
with their first Paris opening in Bernheim Jeune, in February of 1912, many of
the artist's current works were circulated throughout numerous European cities.
The Futurist's was filled with the hope of enlisting additional numbers of poets
and artists to their cause.
The exhibitions eventually found their way into England, Germany and Holland as
well as receiving mention and visual examples of their products in American
Following the publication of the Manifesto: Futurists Sculpting, Severini,
Sculptor in Residence, held a personal exhibition in Paris maintaining high
hopes that he would find volunteers eager to join the Futurists movement.
Unfortunately, the tight band of commonality that tied the brothers to the
movement would eventually slacken, as Marinetti would continuously create a
great deal of pressure with in the group who in response became critical of one
another. Thus was born great animosity among the once tight group.
By the time Italy entered the First World War in 1915 all work by the pro-war
advocates had ceased. Ironically, the violence and war that this group so much
supported would take the lives of Boccioni and Sant'Elia and severely wounding
Following the war, Marinetti had high hopes of re-establishing the Futurists
movement. However, with the end of the war came an end to the critical, radical
thinking of the old camp. Many of the original signers of the 1910 manifestos
had significantly toned down their rebellious ideas and the new inductees lacked
a common bond and the artistic principles that had propelled the original group
Along with the use of vigorous propaganda tactics under the new political
leadership, Futurism was becoming more obsolete as the newer movement was
closely related to Fascism.
Following a ten-year run it seemed that the Futurists movement was losing the
power and speed that had so much been the driving force behind the original
movement. Several artists attempted to lead a variance of Futurism into the
1940's and 50's but would never again gather the momentum or attraction as it
had from 1908-1918.
Even though the earlier Futurist movement had lost the zest originally intended,
the techniques and ideas would never totally fade from the art world. The
philosophies and techniques would be adopted by Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) and
would even be seen to have some bearing on the Cubists as well as the Russian
It would be a safe venture if one were to believe that the world is fortunate
that the philosophies of the Futurists were not eagerly accepted and employed.
One needs not to stretch their imagination too far to realize the impact upon
the world's growth if, in actuality, we were to destroy all academies, libraries
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... and Politics in Pre-World War I Italy," Barnard College ... Mawr
College, Department of the History of Art Colloquium Series 2-24-93 "Cubism
and Futurism in the Age ...
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