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Futurism Collage

Started: 1909

Ended: 1944

Summary of Futurism

Focusing on progress and modernity, the Futurists sought to sweep away traditional artistic notions and replace them with an energetic celebration of the machine age. Focus was placed on creating a unique and dynamic vision of the future and artists incorporated portrayals of urban landscapes as well as new technologies such as trains, cars, and airplanes into their depictions. Speed, violence, and the working classes were all glorified by the group as ways to advance change and their work covered a wide variety of artforms, including architecture, sculpture, literature, theatre, music, and even food.

Futurism was invented, and predominantly based, in Italy, led by the charismatic poet Marinetti. The group was at its most influential and active between 1909 and 1914 but was re-started by Marinetti after the end of the First World War. This revival attracted new artists and became known as second generation Futurism. Although most prominent in Italy, Futurist ideas were utilized by artists in Britain (informing Vorticism), the US and Japan and Futurist works were displayed all over Europe. Russian Futurism is usually considered a separate movement, although some Russian Futurists did engage with the earlier Italian movement. Futurism anticipated the aesthetics of Art Deco as well as influencing Dada and German Expressionism.

Key Ideas

A key focus of the Futurists was the depiction of movement, or dynamism. The group developed a number of novel techniques to express speed and motion, including blurring, repetition, and the use of lines of force. This last method was adapted from the work of the Cubists and the inclusion of such lines became a feature of Futurist images.
The Futurists published a huge number of different manifestos, using them to communicate their aesthetic, political, and social ideals. Although both the Realists and Symbolists had previously produced similar documents, the sheer scale with which the Futurists created and disseminated their manifestos was unprecedented, allowing them to transmit their ideas to a wider audience. To assist them logistically with their distribution, the group made use of some of the new technologies they depicted in their art including advancements in mass media, printing, and transportation.
Many Italian Futurists supported Fascism and parallels can be drawn between the two movements. Like the Fascists, the Futurists were strongly patriotic, excited by violence and opposed to parliamentary democracy. When Mussolini took power in 1922 it brought Futurism official acceptance, but, later, this adversely affected many of the artists as they became tainted by association.
Detail of <i>Dynamic Hieroglyphic of the Bal Tabarin</i> (1912) by Gino Severini

An automobile accident had a transforming effect on Marinetti, who famously said, "a roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace," as the then unknown writer launched Italy’s most important modern art movement.

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