Umberto BoccioniUmberto Boccioni was perhaps the most "important" artist to come out of Italy in this century and maybe even for a century or two before that. The "cradle of the Renaissance" in the eighteenth and nineteenth century had become more of a foreign academy for the study of great art than the cradle of great Italian artists. Born in 1882, Boccioni was unique in that his interests spanned both painting and sculpture and he seemed to be equally talented in both areas. Though interested in Cubism, he was nonetheless unafraid of colour and used it brilliantly to "decompose" his space and figures across the picture plain.
Boccioni was also amongst the founders of the Italian Futurist Movement, an attempt to divorce Italian "modern art" from the "millstone" of antiquities he and others saw as weighing down progress and innovation in his country's art and culture. While others fled the oncoming juggernaut of the First World War, Boccioni and the Futurists welcomed it as a "cleansing" of their culture, rushing out and enlisting immediately. The great irony is that after he and several other Futurists were killed in the war, the movement quickly collapsed.
Of course the first decade of the Twentieth Century was rife with new art movements, but what made this one so interesting was its structured list of "club rules". Though never very great in number, this group wanted no part of the Dadaist anarchy of their northern cousins. Thus they composed formal guidelines governing their art and thoughts. The most famous of these was the "Futurist Technical Manifesto" of 1910. It contained nine declarations and four additional demands:
1. All forms of imitation should be despised and all forms of innovation glorified.
2. It is essential to rebel against notions of good taste and harmony.
3. Art critics are useless.
4. The title "madman" should be looked upon as a badge of honour.
There were others but you get the gist. Perhaps their differences with the Dadaists were more a matter of form than content.
Contributed by Lane, Jim
7 February 1998