Futurism

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti

Futurism was a modern art and social movement which originated in Italy in the early 20th century. It was largely an Italian phenomenon, though there were parallel movements in Russia, England, and elsewhere.

The Futurists practiced in every medium of art, including painting, sculpture, ceramics, graphic design, industrial design, interior design, theater, cinema, fashion, textiles, literature, music, architecture, and even gastronomy.

The founder of Futurism and its most influential personality was the Italian writer Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, who launched the movement in his 1909 ‘Futurist Manifesto,’ which expressed a passionate loathing of everything old, especially political and artistic tradition: ‘We want no part of it, the past,’ he wrote, ‘we the young and strong Futurists!’ The Futurists admired speed, technology, youth, violence, the car, the airplane, and the industrial city, all that represented the technological triumph of humanity over nature, and they were passionate nationalists. They repudiated the cult of the past and all imitation, praised originality, ‘however daring, however violent,’ bore proudly ‘the smear of madness,’ dismissed art critics as useless, rebelled against harmony and good taste, swept away all the themes and subjects of all previous art, and gloried in science.

Many Italian Futurists supported Fascism in the hope of modernizing the country. Italy was divided between the industrial north and the rural, archaic South. Like the Fascists, the Futurists were Italian nationalists, radicals, admirers of violence, and were opposed to parliamentary democracy. Marinetti was one of the first members of the National Fascist Party. He soon found the Fascists were not radical enough for him, but he supported Italian Fascism until his death in 1944. The Futurists’ association with Fascism after its triumph in 1922 brought them official acceptance in Italy and the ability to carry out important work, especially in architecture.

After the Second World War, many Futurist artists had difficulty in their careers because of their association with a defeated and discredited regime. Nonetheless the ideals of futurism remain as significant components of modern Western culture; the emphasis on youth, speed, power and technology finding expression in much of modern commercial cinema and culture. Ridley Scott consciously evoked the designs of Sant’Elia in Blade Runner. Futurism influenced many other twentieth century art movements, including Art Deco, Vorticism, Constructivism, Surrealism, and Dadaism.

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