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Author: Ian McConnell
This lesson will explore Futurism.
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An overview of Futurism.

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Hello. I would like to welcome you this episode of Exploring Art History within Ian. My name is Ian McConnell and today's lesson is about futurism. As you're watching the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as often as you feel is necessary. And as soon as you're ready, we can begin.

Today's objectives are listed below. By the end of the lesson today, you'll be able to identify and define today's key terms, describe the influences on the development of futurism, and identify examples of futurist artwork.

Key terms as always are listed in yellow throughout the lesson. First key term is futurism, an early 20th century art movement characterized by having themes that celebrate technology. Manifesto, a public announcement. Vorticism, an artistic and literary movement in England that was influenced by futurism and was most active before World War I.

The big idea for today is that futurism began as a literary movement in 1909 with Filippo Marinetti's "Futurist Manifesto."

The art that we'll see today dates from between 1911 and 1915. We'll be travelling to Rome, Italy where all of our artists today worked and lived at one point or another. So futurism was an artistic movement that began and developed mostly within Italy, although its influence spread to Russia in the form of Russian futurism. And into England in the form of British Vorticism, which was sort of a hybrid that combined the geometry of cubism and the dynamism of futurism. It spread into architecture as well, and futurist architecture is a separate genre in and of itself, not to be confused with art deco architecture, which though considered futurist in its time is not directly related to futurism. But as a style, futurism in a nutshell involves elements of light, shape, essential forms, and revealed architectural elements.

So futurism began as a literary movement in 1909 with the Futurist Manifesto of Filippo Marinetti-- the crabby looking guy here-- which praised the future, youth, speed, and technology, imagery of mechanical objects like airplanes and cars, imagery of industry and industrial cities, and violence. It distanced itself from the past with such notable quotations as "A speeding automobile is more beautiful than the Nike of Samothrace." It was influential on the development of fascism in Italy. Yikes.

This first image is an example of futurist sculpture, and one of the most important at that. Titled "Unique Forms of Continuity in Space," it shows the influence of cubism and how it breaks the image apart in the more discrete elements, creating multiple views, each of which contributes to the whole and how they depict speed, movement, and a certain flow. Now similar to the Nike of Samothrace and how he forms up here almost as fabric being whipped by the wind and clinging to the form. This statue always reminds me of the Heisman football trophy awarded in American college football that you can see here. Now perhaps inspired by synthetic cubism's use of unconventional materials, this statue was originally made of plaster before being cast in bronze after Boccioni's enlistment in the Italian army and death in World War I.

Boccioni began his career in painting, and after being exposed to cubism while in Paris, he developed his style that has come to be so closely associated with futurism. Baccioni combines the geometric forms of cubism with the sensation of dynamism with how the forms and figures seem to move and bend around the figure of a woman in the foreground. Now there's a sense of anxiety, noise, and energy in the image, and it captures the spirit of revolution, violence, and social upheaval that was closely tied to the futurist movement.

Boccioni was trained in the divisionist technique of post impressionism by the Italian artist Giacomo Balla, who also taught Gino Severini-- our other artist for the day-- in the same technique, which involves separating brush strokes into individual blotches of color that blended together from a distance. So think pointillism for example. Balla's painting of dynamism, "Dog on a Leash," is in my opinion a rather humorous example of important defining elements of futurism, specifically speed and dynamism. To articulate this, instead of using a car or airplane-- things that are fast-- he chose a dauchsund, or weiner dog, going on a walk with his master. His cute little legs, ears, and tail are a flurry of activity that mirror the action of his master's.

Baccioni was inspired by the chronophotography work of Etienne-Jules Marey. By incorporating motion blur into his painting, as well as the striation of the ground underneath him, he convincingly captures the appearance of speed and emotion. It's hard to imagine that little dog making it more than several hundred feet before collapsing with exhaustion.

So Gino Severini, who I mentioned before, was a student of Boccioni, and he signed the Futurist Manifesto, which asserted his belief in what futurism represented, along with the unsettling belief in war being used as a sort of social cleansing. Now his was painting titled "The Armored Train," uses the geometric forms of cubism to break the imagery apart and create a somewhat disorienting portrayal that captures the violence and dynamism of the train's artillery and soldiers engaging with some force that's outside of the canvas. Severini's apparent fascination with the glorification of war was sharply contrasted by the philosophy of the Dada movement that was forming in nearby Switzerland.

So that brings us to the end this lesson. Let's take a look at our objectives again to see if we met them. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms? Can you describe the influences on the development of futurism? And can you identify examples of futurist artwork?

And once again, the big idea for today is that Futurism began as a literary movement in 1909 with Filippo Marinetti's "Futurist Manifesto." And that's it. Thank you very much for joining me today. I'll see you next time.

Notes on "Futurism"

Key Terms


An early 20th-century art movement, characterized by having themes that celebrate technology.


A public announcement.


An artistic and literary movement in England that was influenced by Futurism and was most active before WWI. 


Boccioni, Unique forms of Continuity in Space; Public Domain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:%27Unique_Forms_of_Continuity_in_Space%27,_1913_bronze_by_Umberto_Boccioni.jpg    Boccioni,The Street Enters the House; Public Domain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Umberto_Boccioni_-_A_strada_entra_nella_casa.jpg    Balla, Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash; Creative Commons: http://vintageprintable.com/wordpress/vintage-printable-color/color-blue/color-blue-4/art-painting-nga-dynamism-of-a-dog-on-a-leash-1912-2-5/    Gino Severini, The Armored Train; creative commons: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ocad123/2763231381/ ; Image of Vorticism Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bomberg,_The_Mud_Bath.jpg; Image of Russian Futurism Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Goncharova_cyclist.jpg; Image of Filippo Marinetti Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Manifesto_of_Futurism.jpg; Image of Heismann Trophy Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rashaan_Salaam-Heisman.JPG; Image of Nike of Samothrace Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Paris.louvre.winged.500pix.jpg