Futurism screenshot
Futurism screenshot was taken from the Google Arts & Culture website

Futurism was an art movement consisting of painting, sculpture, and literature that flourished from 1909.  It was established by the Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and inspired by Cubism.  Marinetti coined the term Futurism for the art movement that he founded.   He intended it as a celebration of modernity and a rejection of romance and sentiment; it was dedicated to modernity and speed, to the violent, the urban and the mechanical.

Connections with Fascism

Futurism’s followers were famed for playful, provocative pranks and manifestos – and less appealing for an uneasy association with the Fascist movement led by Benito Mussolini.  Futurism has been tainted by its early and close relationship with Fascism. While its French counterpart, Cubism, is widely recognised and exhibited in Europe and North America, Italian Futurism has been the art world’s untouchable aesthetic theory.

Front cover from Parole in Liberta Futuriste. 1924
Front cover from Parole in Liberta Futuriste. 1924

Influence on Design

Futurism’s influence in developing modern design theories was mainly ideological and concerned with a ‘manner of thinking’ rather than formal or technical methods.  The new ideological perspective of the Futurists can be seen as early as the publication of Marinetti’s foundation manifesto, published in Le Figaro.  Marinetti viewed Futurism as not only an artistic movement.

The written word was central to the philosophy of Futurism, and the designs often involved bold, complex combinations of fragmented typography, repeated icons and Roman numerals.  Marinetti described machines as artistic objects and gave automobiles sexual connotations.

Rejection of the past

Marinetti was one of the many Italian thinkers at the time that reacted against the concept of Italy as a cultural museum.  He wanted to sweep away all that was old and academic.

“Futurism expressed a radical rejection of the past, glorification of the machine, pleasure in the transient and enthusiasm for speed”

Giacomo Balla, Portrait of Benedetta Marinetti, 1951. Giacomo Balla captures the artist’s beauty and serenity.
Nude descending a staircase
Nude descending a staircase by Marcel Duchamp

In the 1920’s many stylistic elements of Futurism, such as a strong grid structure, were incorporated into print advertising, book design and magazine layouts.

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