Umberto Boccioni and Futurist Art

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

He moved at that point to Rome and started to study Art. As a formally trained artist he trained under Giacoma Balla, a popular painter of that time period. Boccioni also continued his education at various art schools. He became a painter first and then later became a talented sculptor, as well. In 1906 he traveled very briefly to Russia with a family he had connected with when in France. In April of 1907 Boccioni was in Venice practicing etching. From 1907 to 1909 Boccioni experimented with several subjects and methods.

During his brief life, he became renowned for his work as a sculptor and painter. Like quite a few of his contemporaries, he became a futurist. Typical of that time frame he wanted to depict motion as well as speed and technology in his work. In 1909 Boccioni truly found himself in the Futurist movement.

Possibly it’s an understatement to state that he had been a part of the Futurist movement when he in fact co-wrote most of the ideas of the movement together 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 finished his most famous work titled, “Unique Forms of Continuity in Space.” His futurist style merged Neo-Impressionism and Cubism. He explained of the futurists, “What we want to do is to show the living object in its dynamic growth.” Even though many artists reject commercialism or popularity, Futurists spent a good deal of energy pushing their beliefs. They were met with a lot of resistance however, ultra-nationalists were in power and they were more traditional in their beliefs.

Futurists supported enterprise and technology. They anticipated the future and wanted to show movement within their art. While it can be hard to discuss the components of artistic expression without experiencing them, it’s possible to describe some important elements. One of the basic techniques of the futurists was to separate lines into pieces or segments at increasingly more intervals. This gave them the look of acceleration. While the Futurists loved technology, they still used more traditional techniques in painting, too. For instance large, broad-brush strokes and bright colors were prevalent. Besides being an important movement in its own right, what’s more, it strongly affected later movements such as Surrealism, Art Deco, and Constructivism.

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