Gino Severini

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Gino Severini in 1913 at the opening night of his exhibition at the Marlborough Gallery, London.
Train, 1915
Musaic, 1949

Gino Severini (Cortona, 7 April 188326 February 1966), was an Italian painter and a leading member of the Futurist movement and signed in 1910 the Manifesto of the Futurists together with his fellow Italians: Boccioni, Carrà, Russolo and Balla. Later, Cubism attracted him more.

Quotes of Gino Severini[edit]

chronologically, after date of the quotes

1910 - 1915[edit]

  • I would like my colors to be diamonds and to be able to make abundant use of them in my pictures so as to make them gleam with light and richness.
    • in a letter to Umberto Boccioni, 1910; as quoted in Gino Severini, the Dance, 1909 – 1916, by Daniele Fonti, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; 2001, p. 15


  • Appolinaire [spokesman of French Cubism ] told me about a book of his on the Cubists that's about to come out. He divides the Cubists into Physical Cubists, (Gleize) [sic], who add some dramatic elements to their expression of external realities; Scientific Cubists (Picasso, Metzinger) and 'Orphiques' [sic]. (I give you [ Umberto Boccioni ] this last classification in French because I don't know how to translate it); in Appolinaire's opinion the 'Orphiques' [sic] seek new elements of expressing abstract realities; and we Futurists belong with the latter.
    • Gino Severini, in a letter to Umberto Boccioni, Paris, 29 October 1912; as quoted in Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008, p. 55


  • The Cubists and the other avantgarde [in France] can see the danger of being called Futurists. They are attracted by research involving the movement and the complexity of subjects. To avoid this kind of treat, they invented Orphism.
    • In a letter to Marinetti, 31 March 1913; as quoted in 'Severini futurista', op. cit, p. 146.
    • Gino Severini's critical quote on Cubist-Orphism artists in Paris


  • The sea dancing, it's zig-zag movements and contrasting silver and emerald, evokes within my plastic sensibility the distant vision of a dancer covered in a sparkling sequins in her world of light, noise and sound. Therefore sea = dancer [= title of a painting he made in 1914]
    • In his manifesto 'The Plastic Analogies of Dynamism', c. 1914; as quoted in Inventing Futurism: The Art and Politics of Artificial Optimism, by Christine Poggi, Princeton University Press, 2009, p. 217


  • The spiraling shapes, and the beautiful contrasts of yellow and blue, that are intuitively felt one evening while living the movements of a girl dancing may be found again later, through a process of plastic preferences or aversions, or through combination of both, in the concentric circling of an aeroplane or in the onrush of an express train
    • In his manifesto 'The Plastic Analogies of Dynamism', c. 1914; as quoted in Inventing Futurism: The Art and Politics of Artificial Optimism, by Christine Poggi, Princeton University Press, 2009, p. 218


  • this complex form of realism.. ..totally destroys the integrity of the subject-matter.. .The abstract colors and forms that we portray belong to Universe outside time and space.
    • In his manifesto 'The Plastic Analogies of Dynanism', c. 1914; as quoted in Inventing Futurism: The Art and Politics of Artificial Optimism, by Christine Poggi, Princeton University Press, 2009, p. 218


1915 - 1940[edit]

  • The truth lies somewhere between these two aesthetics [static Cubism and dynamic Futurism]. The 'pure form' of w:Ingres led inevitably to a life-less Platonism; the lyricism and Romanticism of Eugène Delacroix no longer tailed with our cerebral and geometric age.. ..as in all great ages, today's artwork must be the synthesis of these two things [quote, 1917].
    • In the 'Preface' of the exhibition catalogue, Photo Secession Gallery, New York, March 1917



  • ..ambition to surpass Impressionism, destroying the subject's unity of time and place.. ..[to render its relations to] things that apparently had nothing to do with it, but that in reality were linked to it in my imagination, in my memories or by feeling. In the same canvas I brought together the Arc of Triumph, the Tour Eiffel, the Alps, the head of my father, an autobus, the municipal hall of Pienza, the boulevard...
    • In: 'Processo e difesa di un pittore d'oggi', L'Arte 5, Rome, September – November, 1931; as quoted in Inventing Futurism: The Art and Politics of Artificial Optimism, by Christine Poggi, Princeton University Press, 2009, p. 25
    • quote, referring to his painting 'Memories of a Voyage', Severini painted in 1910-1911.


1940 - 1960[edit]

  • In our young days, when Modigliani and I first came to Paris, in 1906, nobody was very clear about ideas. But unconsciously, we knew quite a lot of things, of which we became aware later on.
    • In an interview, 1956; as quoted in Letters of the great artists, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson , London, 1963, p. 247


  • It was during the first years [1906-1910] the we realized the presence of a dualism deep down within us, where another person, whom we ourselves do not know, tends, at the moment of the creative act, to supplant the person we believe ourselves to be and would like to be. It is difficult to bring these two individualities into accord, yet it is upon this accord that the development of a personality largely depends. My first contact with the art of Seurat whom I adopted, once and for all, as my master, did a great deal to help me to express myself in terms of the two simultaneous and often opposed aspirations. This opposition caused me much mental torture, I must admit..
    • In an interview, 1956; as quoted in Letters of the great artists, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson , London, 1963, p. 247


'The Life of a Painter - autobiography', 1946[edit]

La Vita di un Pittore, Gino Severini, 1946;as quoted in The Life of a Painter: The Autobiography of Gino Severini, transl. Jennifer Franchina. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995,
  • I was interested in achieving a creative freedom, a style that I could express with Seurat's.. ..color technique [color-divisionism], but shaped to my own needs. Proof that I found it is in my paintings of that period, among which is the famous 'Pan-Pan a Monico' [Severini painted in 1912]. My preference for Neo-Impressionism dates from those works. At times I tried to suppress it, but it always worked its way back to the surface.


  • Before my encounter with Thomist philosophy through Maritain, I had almost reached the same conclusions through the logical development of my work, intuition and thought, but what a great sense of joy I felt upon discovering, in Maritain, the confirmation of certain thought patterns, certain ways of clarifying these to myself and to others.
    • p. 289


after 1960, and posthumous[edit]

  • Art is nothing but humanized science.
    • Quoted in: Deric Regin (1968) Culture and the Crowd. p. 86


  • Philosophers and aestheticians may offer elegant and profound definitions of art and beauty, but for the painter they are all summed up in this phrase: To create a harmony
    • Quoted in: Clint Brown (1998) Artist to Artist, p. 32


'Letters of the great artists', 1963[edit]

Quoted in Letters of the great artists, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson , London, 1963, (transl. Daphne Woodward)
  • ..since then I have found consolation in Blake; 'Without Contraries is no progression', he says in his Proverbs of Hell. And Baudelaire's idea that 'Variety is an essential condition of life' seems to me to be in perfect accord with my aspirations and with my intention, as a Futurist painter, to put life in the place occupied by reasoning in the art of the Cubist period.
    • p. 247


  • In the early days the Cubists' method of grasping an object was to go round and round it; the futurists declared that one had to get inside it. In my opinion the two views can be reconciled in a poetic cognition of the world. But to the very fact that they appealed to the creative depths in the painter by awakening in him hidden forces which were intuitive and vitalizing, the Futurist theories did more than the Cubist principles to open up unexplored and boundless horizons.
    • p. 248


  • The intellectual abstraction of the second period of Cubism was of great importance, however. By its aspirations to the eternal and its 'concept of proportion inspired by the Classics' it revived the sense of craftsmanship concept in many painters. And this perfectly coincided with another of my ambitions – which was to make, with paint, an object having the same perfection of craftsmanship that a cabinet-maker would put into a piece of furniture.
    • p. 248


  • It should also be born in mind that the research on 'movement' and the dynamic outlook on the world, which were the basis of Futurist theory, in no way required one to paint nothing but speeding cars or ballerinas in action; for a person who is seated, or an inanimate object, though apparently static, could be considered dynamically and suggest dynamic forms. I may mention as an example [his paintings] the 'Portrait of Madame S.' (1912) and the 'Seated Woman' (1914).
    • p. 248


  • Futurism and Cubism are comparable in importance tot the invention of perspective, for which they substituted a new concept op space. All subsequent movements were latent in them or brought about by them.. ..the two movements cannot be regarded as in opposition to each other, even though they started from opposite points; I maintain (an idea approved by Apollinaire and later by Matisse) that they are two extremes of the same sign, tending to coincide at certain points which only the poetic instinct of the painter can discover: poetry being the content and raison d'être of art.
    • p. 248-249


Quotes about Gino Severini[edit]

  • The artist intended the painting ['Memories of a Voyage', Severini painted in 1910-11] to signal his 'ambition to surpass Impressionism, destroying the subject's unity of time and place' Instead of portraying an object in its immediate environment, Severini sought to render its relations to 'things that apparently had nothing to do with it..'
    • w:Christine Poggi, in 'Inventing Futurism: The Art and Politics of Artificial Optimism', by Christine Poggi, Princeton University Press, 2009, p. 25


  • * Whereas Boccioni's [painting of 1911] The Farewells portrays the ways in which strong sensations register as memory images, so that past and present are linked in a single 'durée', Severini's painting ['Memories of a Voyage'] destroys all semblance of spatio-temporal continuity.
    • w:Christine Poggi, in 'Inventing Futurism: The Art and Politics of Artificial Optimism', by Christine Poggi, Princeton University Press, 2009, pp. 25-26


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