The early twentieth century was a time of change; civilized society was permeated by wars, transformations, political turmoil, and new technological and communication breakthroughs such as the telegraph, radio, airplanes, and the first movie cameras; all of which eventually changed the perception of distances completely, catapulting mankind toward the concept of speed. In 1909, following a manifesto written and distributed by poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Futurism was born: an Italian literary, cultural, artistic and musical movement, one of the first European avant-gardes.
Assembly lines were cutting down production times, cars were increasing every day, streets were beginning to fill with artificial lights, and everywhere there was this new feeling of future. Futurists ideally intended to “burn museums and libraries” to cancel every connection with the past in order to focus on the dynamic present. They also glorified motion, industry, militarism, nationalism and war, which was defined as the “only hygiene of the world.”
In Futurist works, there’s a constant search for dynamism; the subject never appears stationary but always in motion; in this way the viewer is enveloped by the artwork, participating in its perpetual motion instead of passively looking at the static object. Leading exponents of the artistic Futurism are Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Giacomo Balla, Gino Severini and Luigi Russolo who, in 1910, signed the Manifesto of Futurist Painters, in Milan.
With Futurism Milan has a special connection, “From here the Futurist Movement launched its challenge to the moonlight mirrored on the Naviglio.” Its dynamism as a modern metropolis was an irresistible inspiration for this avant-garde, and numerous traces left by its exponents can be found in the city. Near Corso Venezia, for example, is the Boschi Di Stefano House Museum, where in the early 20th century artists gathered to discuss poetry, art and politics, and which today houses numerous masterpieces. In addition, the second floor of the centrally located Museo del Novecento, called the Gallery of Futurism, houses one of the most important collections of Futurist works in the world.
Today, we at Stendhal Milano, passionate supporters of art in all its forms, cannot fail to remember one of the movements that most characterized our city, forever marking the common imagery and celebrating, albeit in an ambivalent way, the city’s ability to go fast and always be one step ahead.