Essay, Research Paper: Futurism


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During the first decade of the twentieth century, a group of young Italian
painters united together, under the influence of poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti.
Before creating their new style, these painters embraced the ideas of
Marinetti’s The Foundation and Manisfesto of Futurism which appeared in the
newspaper Le Figaro on February 20, 1909 (Tisdall 7). His manifesto of futurism
was primarily concerned with peotry, but artists such as Boccioni, Balla, and
Severini used his ideas and applied them to painting and sculpture. The Museum
of Modern Art holds Umberto Boccioni’s Dynamism of a Soccer Player, 1913, a
fine example of the Futurist vision. In his Futurist Painting: A Technical
Manifesto, Boccioni tells us that the “growing need of truth is no longer
satisfied with Form and Colour as they have been understood hitherto. The
gesture which we would reproduce on canvas shall no longer be a fixed moment in
universal dynamism. It shall be the “dynamic sensation itself” (Apollonio
27). This goal of creating the dynamic sensation itself, rather than simply a
fixed moment within a dynamic action is exemplified, among other ideas of the
Futurist movement in Boccioni’s Dynamism of a Soccer Player. Before going
further however, it is necessary to discuss some of the principles of Futurism
as created by Marinetti. Marinetti’s The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism is
a work which begins like a work of poetry, and deals with the celebration with
the technology, the future, and the machine, while rejecting the natural world
and the past. Marinetti despises the sounds created by canals “muttering
feeble prayers”, and “the creaking bones of sickly palaces,” while he
embraces the “famished roar of automobiles” (Apollonio 19-20). He orders us
to “shake the gates of life”, and instead, “test the bolts and hinges” (Apollonio
20). To Marinetti, technology and the machine, such as the automobiles, are to
be embraced and celebrated for its speed and beauty. No longer is a natural
landscape beautiful, rather “the world’s magnificence has been enriched by a
new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing car whose hood is adorned with great
pipes, like serpents of explosive breath – a roaring car that seems to ride on
grapeshot” is seen as more beautiful than any romantic painting (Apollonio
21). In addition to celebrating the machine, the Futurist movement represents a
striding towards the future. This is accomplished by rejecting all of the past,
even going as far as saying that it is harmful. Marinetti instructs his
followers to “destroy the museums, libraries, [and] academies of every kind”
(Apollonio 22). He explains that it is damaging for an artist to daily visit
museums, libraries, and academies, calling them “cemeteries of empty exertion,
Calvaries of crucified dreams, registries of aborted beginnings!” (Apollonio
23). Umberto Boccioni was a follower of Marinetti, and used his ideas to create
his own manifesto, Futurist Painting: Technical Manifesto, which contains the
ideas and objectives manifested in Dynamism of a Soccer Player. The Italian
movement represents a celebration of the machine and technology, embracing speed
and dynamism. Paintings in this style utilize contrasting complementary colors,
triangular patterns, and repeated patterns in order to simulate movement and
feverish speed. Boccioni’s work combines many elements of modern art, for
instance, the geometric design of the Cubist, Neo-Impressionism pointillist
brushstrokes, and vivid coloration. Though the painting does not contain a
machine in a technical sense, it is still a work inspired by the writings of
Marinetti. Concerning the idea of the beauty of speed, Boccioni is successful in
creating a work which has a very quick and dynamic feel to it. He chose a soccer
player as his subject, and rather than painting him in the traditional sense,
the subject is portrayed in a manner as to show movement and dynamism.
Boccioni’s goal was to show the “dynamic sensation itself”, and not simply
the “fixed moment in universal dynamism” (Apollonio 27). This is
accomplished by painting the figure, especially his leg, numerous times, because
“on account of the persistency of an image upon the retina, moving objects
constantly multiply themselves” (Apollonio 28). The soccer player appears to
start out on the right side of the canvas, and then run into the depths of the
upper left corner. This feeling is also created by the shapes and colors used.
There appears to be a trail of light going into the upper left corner of the
painting which gives the impression that the figure is feverishly running off.
The triangular shapes surrounding the figure give the painting a cyclical feel,
and also give the figure a sense of rapid movement. Boccioni wanted to create
this feeling of speed and dynamism, for he believed in the Futurist idea of
striding into the future, and not looking back into the past. The shapes within
this work give it a Cubist quality, but it contains much more vibrant coloration
and sense of movement. Boccioni created with vibrant and complemetary colors in
Dynamism of a Soccer Player. The colors used for the figure and the surrounding
areas of purples, blues, reds, greens, yellows, and oranges are appropriate for
a painting celebrating the future and technology. They appear to be unnatural
and coming from a modern unnatural source of light. In his manifesto, Boccioni
delclares that “innate complemetariness” is an absolute necessity in
painting and that “the time has passed for our sensations in painting to be
whispered. We wish them in the future to sing and re-echo upon our canvases in
deafening and triumphant flourishes” (Apollonio 29). The complementary colors
used also contribute to the dynamism of the work in a similar way that the
juxtaposed complemetaries used by the Impressionists create a flicker and sense
of movement. Boccioni’s Dynamism of a Soccer Player is a work which is an
appropriate example of the manifestation of the Futurist ideals proposed by
Marinetti. With its appearance of speed, sense of striding toward the future,
and aggressive character, this work is the embodiment of Futurism.

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