“To paint a human figure you must not paint it; you must render the whole of its surrounding atmosphere . . . movement and light destroy the materiality of bodies.”
From its inception in 1908 with F. T. Marinetti’s “Futurist manifesto” and through its demise at the end of World War II, the Futurists were concerned with creating art for the new century. Fascinated with the speed and noise of machinery and cities, the Futurists were intentionally rejecting traditional imagery and creating works that were utterly modern and radical. It was all about speed and the perception of movement.
Umberto Boccioni’s Dynamism of a Soccer Player, painted in 1913 challenges you to find the player: despite the well-pronounced leg and knee in the center of the picture, rhythmically repeated abstract lines and shapes are chaotically moving around the surface and make it impossible to recognize a familiar figurative depiction of a human body. Here, Boccioni is primarily concerned with representation of vibration and dynamics of the movement rather then depicting the player. The dynamic sensation is created through abstract shapes both transparent and opaque, and overlapping each other – clearly Cubist influence. Yet, to solve the problem of depicting motion, the Futurists drew on the sequential photographs taken by Eadward Muybridge in the end of the nineteenth century (Giacomo Balla’s Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash is the best illustration of this influence). Here it was all about not just creating new paintings, but inventing a new way of painting and depicting aspects of familiar objects not presented before.
Through abstraction and sequence Umberto Boccioni challenged the inherent stillness of paint on canvas and urged us to forget our cultural memory, rethink aesthetic sensations and confront traditional perception of surrounding objects.
Futurism praises another, unconventional kind of harmony: harmony of speed of the modern age.
*”Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting”, 1910.
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