Futurism: The Street Room 2a: Futurism: The Street

Umberto Boccioni Forces of the Street, 1911shadowy figures aming geometric shapes with abstracted beams of light shining down from top of image.

Umberto Boccioni
Forces of the Street 1911

Osaka City Museum of Modern Art

In early 1912, Marinetti stage-managed a wave of Futurist activity. He organised a major exhibition which opened at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in Paris; it then travelled to the Sackville Gallery in London and on to Berlin and Brussels. Proclaimed by the artists as ‘the most important exhibition of Italian painting hitherto offered to the judgment of Europe’, it ensured that ‘Futurist’ rapidly became synonymous with ‘modern’. Many of the works shown in 1912 have been brought back together in this sequence of galleries. 

The Milanese Futurists, Boccioni, Carrà and Russolo, made the street one of the primary subjects of their painting. Urban life was rapidly changing and they embraced this exciting vitality. Electric street lighting and industrialisation blurred the distinction between day and night, while the experience of looking through the window of a speeding train or cab revealed new ways of seeing the world. ‘We will sing of great crowds excited by work, by pleasure, and by riot”, the Futurists declared.

They drew particular inspiration from the philosopher Henri Bergson, who argued that consciousness was in flux, creating a simultaneity of experience. In their catalogue for the 1912 exhibition, the painters wrote of the ‘dislocation and dismemberment of objects, the scattering and fusion of details, freed from accepted logic, and independent from one another.’