Umberto Boccioni was a famous Italian painter of the early 20th century, avant-garde sculptor, ancestor and ideological inspirer of futurism. Umberto Boccioni made an enormous contribution to the formation of the philosophy and aesthetics of the movement. He was one of the creators of the Manifesto of Futuristic Painting and personally developed the Manifesto of Futuristic Sculpture.
Biography of Umberto Boccioni
Umberto Boccioni was born on October 19, 1882 in Italy, in the city of Reggio Calabria. His father’s job required frequent travel, and the family followed. Forlì, Genoa, Padua, Sicily … In 1901, the young man went to Rome to study painting at the Free School of Nude at the Academy of Fine Arts.
Umberto Boccioni from an early age was distinguished by a rebellious character, audacity of judgment and remarkable intelligence. Already in his early works, an explosive mixture of irony and rage can be clearly traced, which would later become the “calling card” of the master. In his autobiography, faithful companion Gino Severini described his first meeting with Umberto in 1901. The views of the young people completely coincided, both were keenly interested in Nietzsche’s theories, uprisings, and revolutionary struggle.
Friends mastered the technique of pointillism from the divisionist artist Giacomo Balla.
In 1902, Umberto Boccioni went to Paris, where he enthusiastically studied impressionism and post-impressionism. Then he visits Russia, wanting to get a real idea of the unrest and government repression, and then again travels to France. Returning to Italy in 1906, the aspiring artist takes drawing lessons at the Venice Academy of Fine Arts.
Acquaintance with representatives of the trend, which will become the work of Boccioni’s whole life, took place in Milan, in 1907. Filippo Marinetti, the theorist of literary futurism and the “father” of aerial painting, creator of the 1909 Manifesto, had a strong influence on the artist’s work. Umberto Boccioni adapted his theses to the visual arts and on February 11, 1910, he released the Manifesto of Futurist Artists, in which he extolled the power and energy of modern life. On March 8, the author read it at the Turin theater.
The first work in a truly futuristic style – “Laughter”, the picture was written in 1911.
The artist completely abandoned the techniques of impressionism and pointillism. Feeling that Italian art lags behind French, that it needs a fresh stream, Umberto Boccioni actively develops new ideas and raises high the banner of futurism, which was called (and continue to be called) “flashy painting”.
The painter led the movement and became its symbol. Finally, futurism has taken a real form. Having visited the Parisian workshops of Georges Braque, Constantin Brâncuşi and the studios of other avant-garde artists in 1912, he decided to try his hand at sculpture.
In early June 1915, Umberto Boccioni left to fight.
On August 16, 1916, he was thrown by a horse and trampled by his hooves. The artist died from his injuries on August 17.
The genius lived only 33 years, but his work had a huge impact on the art of the 20th and 21st centuries. New York Times art critic Grace Gluck called Umberto the “flaming comet” of Italian futurism. The master considered any drawing or sculpture to be a hurricane, a whirlwind of emotions. It was he who gave impetus to a new cultural phenomenon in England – vorticism (the name comes from the word vortice – “whirlwind”). After the untimely death of the leader, no one took over the leadership of the futuristic movement, and it disintegrated.
The most famous paintings by Umberto Boccioni
Umberto Boccioni’s paintings combine everything seen and felt into one whole. Torn whirlwinds, edges, fragments, unusual shapes whirl in a multi-colored kaleidoscope. Movement is the meaning of the life and work of the master. Among the best works:
- “Sleep” (1909) – the picture is devoted to the eternal theme of love. “Three Women” (1909-1910) – figures on the left and right – Boccioni’s mother and sister Cecilia. Between them, in the center, is Ines, the artist’s beloved woman.
- “The City Rises” (1910) – in this picture the author, in his own words, “tried to unite labor, light and movement.”
- “Laughter” (1911) – the reaction of the public to the work was initially negative. One of the visitors to the exhibition even ruined the image by running his finger over the paint that had not yet dried.
- “The street enters the house” (1911) – the frantic rhythm of the modern city is conveyed masterly. The buildings are tilted downward, and people from the balconies seem to be sucked into the maelstrom of street events.
- Cyclist Dynamism (1913) – chaotic lines captured movement. The image is similar to the image that we see through the window of a speeding train.