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Boccioni, Umberto (1882–1916) By Versari, Maria Elena

DOI: 10.4324/9781135000356-REM771-1
Published: 09/05/2016
Retrieved: 25 June 2019, from
https://www.rem.routledge.com/articles/boccioni-umberto-1882-1916

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Abstract

Umberto Boccioni was the most famous painter and sculptor of the Italian Futurist movement. After an early career as a painter and illustrator, he joined Futurism in 1910, quickly becoming one of its leading members. Together with Carlo Carrà, Luigi Russolo, Giacomo Balla and Gino Severini he signed the Manifesto of the Futurist Painters (1910) as well as the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting (1910) and exhibited at legendary Futurist shows in Italy and abroad. His numerous conferences and articles were pivotal in furthering the theoretical development of Futurist aesthetics and defining Futurism’s identity in opposition to Cubism and Expressionism. His work is marked by a constant intertwining of theoretical definition and material experimentation. Artistic debates, but also contemporary scientific and philosophical theories, influenced his Futurist masterpieces, such as La città che sale [The City Rises] (1910–1911) and La risata [The Laugh] (1911). In 1912 his interest in sculpture led him to pen the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Sculpture and resulted in a famous exhibition of works in plaster and multi-media assemblages.

Umberto Boccioni was the most famous painter and sculptor of the Italian Futurist movement. After an early career as a painter and illustrator, he joined Futurism in 1910, quickly becoming one of its leading members. Together with Carlo Carrà, Luigi Russolo, Giacomo Balla and Gino Severini he signed the Manifesto of the Futurist Painters (1910) as well as the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting (1910) and exhibited at legendary Futurist shows in Italy and abroad. His numerous conferences and articles were pivotal in furthering the theoretical development of Futurist aesthetics and defining Futurism’s identity in opposition to Cubism and Expressionism. His work is marked by a constant intertwining of theoretical definition and material experimentation. Artistic debates, but also contemporary scientific and philosophical theories, influenced his Futurist masterpieces, such as La città che sale [The City Rises] (1910–1911) and La risata [The Laugh] (1911). In 1912 his interest in sculpture led him to pen the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Sculpture and resulted in a famous exhibition of works in plaster and multi-media assemblages.

Boccioni was born on 19 October 1882, in Reggio Calabria, the son of a couple from Romagna. He died in Verona on 17 August 1916 from injuries sustained falling from a horse while serving in the Italian army. His father’s governmental job forced the family to move often and the young Umberto pursued his studies in Genoa, Padua, and Catania. His sojourn in Rome, where he arrived in 1899, was quite influential: in Rome he met Giacomo Balla, who introduced him to the principles of divisionism, worked as an illustrator and also befriended the painters Gino Severini and Mario Sironi. He traveled to Paris for the first time in 1906, eventually also visiting Eastern Europe and Russia. Upon his return, after a brief stay in Venice, he moved to Milan in 1907. In Milan, he officially joined the Futurist movement founded by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, signing the Manifesto of the Futurist Painters and the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting in 1910. He quickly became one of the principal theoreticians of the movement and envisioned his theoretical activity as a dialectic practice. He often gave public readings of his texts and manifestos that incited tumultuous reactions, as, for example, in 1910 when he famously recited the Manifesto of Futurist Painters at the Politeama Chiarella in Turin. However, he also engaged in more subtle polemical essays aimed at charting the distinction between Futurism and Cubism. His detachment from Divisionism, discussion of the limits of Cubism, and involvement with the theoretical definition of a Futurist agenda for modern art constitute the material for his early manifestos, prefaces to the Futurist catalogs, articles in the Florentine journal Lacerba, and for his later book, Pittura e Scultura Futuriste. Dinamismo Plastico [Futurist Painting and Sculpture. Plastic Dynamism] (1914). The two versions of the triptych Gli stati d’animo [States of Mind] (1911) testify to his progressive detachment from Divisionism and his meditations on Cubism. Materia [Matter] (1912) offers a visual response to the ideas of Henri Bergson. The same concern for a new representation of space and matter is evident in his activity as sculptor. In 1912, after the publication of his For Boccioni, he suggests modern sculpture should abolish the artificial concept of figures isolated from their surroundings by incorporating a plurality of materials and by capturing the fluid continuity between object and environment.

Further Reading

  • Agnese, Gino (1996) Vita Di Boccioni, Florence: Camunia.

  • Agnese, Gino (2008) Boccioni da vicino. Pensiere e passion del grande futurista, Naples: Liguori.

  • Ballo, Guido (1964) Boccioni: La Vita e L’opera, Milan: Saggiatore.

  • Birolli, Zeno (1983) Umberto Boccioni: Racconto Critico, Turin: G. Einaudi.

  • Boccioni, Umberto (1971) Gli Scritti Editi e Inediti, Birolli, Zeno (ed.), Milan: Feltrinelli.

  • Boccioni, Umberto (1972) Altri inediti ed apparati critici, Birolli, Zeno (ed.), Milan: Feltrinelli.

  • Boccioni, Umberto (2009) Lettere Futuriste, Rovati, Federica (ed.), Trento: Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto.

  • Boccioni, Umberto and Paolo Bellini (1972) Catalogo Completo Dell’opera Grafica Di Umberto Boccioni, Milan: Salamon e Agustoni.

  • Boccioni, Umberto and Paolo Bellini (2004) Umberto Boccioni: Catalogo Ragionato Delle Incisioni, Degli Ex Libris, Dei Manifesti e Delle Illustrazioni Cinisello Balsamo, Milan: Silvana.

  • Boccioni, Umberto and Mattioli L. Rossi (2006) Boccioni: Pittore Scultore Futurista, Milan: Skira.

  • Calvesi, Maurizio and Ester Cohen (1983) Boccioni: L’opera Completa, Milan: Electa.

  • Mattioli, Rossi L. (2004) Boccioni’s Materia: A Futurist Masterpiece and the Avant-Garde in Milan and Paris, New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

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09/05/2016

Article DOI

10.4324/9781135000356-REM771-1

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Citing this article:

Versari, Maria Elena. "Boccioni, Umberto (1882–1916)." The Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism. : Taylor and Francis, 2016. Date Accessed 25 Jun. 2019 https://www.rem.routledge.com/articles/boccioni-umberto-1882-1916. doi:10.4324/9781135000356-REM771-1

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