Gino Severini

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

Gino Severini (Cortona, 7 April 1883 – 26 February 1966), was an Italian painter and a leading member of the Futurist movement; he 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]

sorted chronologically, by date of the quotes of Gino Severini
Severini, c. 1911: 'The Black Cat', painting
Severini, c. 1911-12: 'The Yellow Dancers', oil-painting
Severini, c. 1912-13: title unknown; published at the First German Autumn Salon, in art-magazine Der Sturm by H. Walden
Severini, c. 1912-13: 'Dynamic hieroglyph from the ball Tabarin'; image is published at the First German Autumn Salon, in art-magazine Der Sturm by H. Walden
Severini, c. 1914: 'Sea = Dancer', painting
photo of 5 Italian Futurists, March 1912, in front of 'Le Figaro' in Paris: Russolo, Carrà, Marinetti, Boccioni, Severini
Severini, c. 1932-34: 'Portrait', oil on canvas
Severini, 1937: 'Ritratto della marchesa Maria de Seta', oil-painting
Severini, 1949: 'Musaic'
  • 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.
    • Quote in a letter to Umberto Boccioni, 1910; as cited in Gino Severini, the Dance, 1909 – 1916, by Daniele Fonti, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; 2001, p. 15
  • ..the gesture that we want.. ..will be the dynamic sensation itself.
    • In a letter to Marinetti, May 1911; as cited by Anne Coffin Hanson, 'Severini Futurista: 1912-1917', exhibition catalog, Connecticut: Yale University Art Gallery, 1995, p. 134
    • Severini expressed his unwavering dedication to Futurism, approving of its program by citing a fundamental passage of the Futurist manifesto
  • 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.
    • Quote from his 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] circular rhythmic movement of a dancer, the folds of whose dress are held out by means of a hoop. These folds preserve their exterior form, modified in a uniform manner through the rotary movement. In order the better to convey the notion of relief, I have attempted to model the essential portions in a manner almost sculptural. Light and ambiance act simultaneously on the forms in movement.
    • from Severini's text, in the entry for the Marlborough Gallery exhibition; as cited by Daniela Fonti, Gino Severini Catalogo Ragionato, Milan: Edizione Phillipe Daverio, 1988, p. 130
    • Severine is describing here his painting 'Dancer at Pigalle', 1912
  • [..that the execution of 'Pan Pan'] was influenced by the sounds of the ambiance [and the painting].. ..was only musical, to the detriment of the volumes and the forms that I had unconsciously neglected.. ..[in] following the greater emotional cause: the sounds.
    • In Severini's letter to Ardegno Soffici, 27 September, 1913 (Pienza); as cited in Archivi del Futurismo Volume 1. eds. Maria Drudi Gambillo and Teresa Fiori (Rome: De Luca, 1958-68; 2nd ed. 1986), pp. 291-293
  • The metaphysical forms which compose our futurist pictures are the result of realities conceived and realities created entirely by the artist. These last are inspired by the emotion or intuition and dependent on atmosphere-ambience.
    • Quote of Severine 1913, from the opening paragraphs of his text 'Art du fantastique dans le sacre', as cited in Gino Severini Ecrits sur l'art, (1913-1962), with a preface by Serge Fauchereau, (Paris: Editions Cercle d'Art, 1987), p. 47
    • Severini opens 'Art du fantastique' with a theoretical explanation of the concept, form and content of a Futurist work
  • ..displacement of bodies in [the] atmosphere [where] two persons form but one plastic unity, rhythmically balanced.
    • Quote from Severini's catalog entry for his exhibition at the Marlborough Gallery in London in April 1913, reproduced in Archivi del Futurismo, Volume 1., eds. Maria Drudi Gambillo and Teresa Fiori (Rome: De Luca, 1958-68. 2d 1986), p. 116
    • Severini explains in short the conception behind his painting 'The Bear Dance at the Moulin Rouge', 1913
  • The need for abstraction and symbols is a characteristic sign of the intensity and rapidity with which life is lived today. It often happens that a word, [or] a phrase, will serve to synthesize a complete action, an entire psychology. In the same way, one gesture, one essential feature, may, by suddenly throwing light upon our intuition, succeed in presenting to our vision the total reality.
    • Quote from Severini's introductory essay for the Marlborough Gallery catalogue; reproduced in Archivi del Futurismo, Volume 1, eds. Maria Drudi Gambillo and Teresa Fiori (Rome: De Luca, 1958-68. 2d 1986), pp. 113-115
  • 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]
    • Quote from 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
  • 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...
    • Quote from his article 'Processo e difesa di un pittore d'oggi', L'Arte 5, Rome, September – November, 1931; as cited 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.
  • 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] that we [the Futurist artists] 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
  • 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

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

Quotes from 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
  • [Severini characterized his approach to the importance of Divisionism for Futurism as] ..a consequence of Neo-Impressionism (Seurat, Signac) and Van Gogh, Toulouse Lautrec, Degas.. [compared to that of his Milanese colleagues who works were] influenced by Jugendstil [and] a continuation of the Lombardian tradition of Segantini, Previati..
  • 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

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

Quotes of Severini, from: 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 most important work ['Pan Pan'] yet painted by a futurist. Movement is well rendered in this canvas, and since no optical fusion of colors occurs, everything is in motion, as the artist wished.
    • Quote of Apollinaire', in his comment on the 1912 Futurist Exhibition in Paris 'The Italian Futurist Painters,', in 'L'Intransigeant, 7 Feb. 1912); as cited in Leroy C. Breunig, ed., Apollinaire on Art: Essays and Reviews 1902-1918, trans. Susan Suleiman (New York: The Viking Press, 1972), p. 200
    • Severini's painting 'Pan Pan' was a great success according to Apollinaire, but not Severini's other exposed paintings
  • In 1913 Severini began work on a series of images exploring popular dances such as the 'Bear Dance' and the Argentine Tango. In contrast to his earlier paintings and the abstracted analogies that follow, where the representation of the artist's state of mind is a priority, these works emphasized the evocative power of strong color and simplified form. American 'animal' dances and the Latin based tango were introduced to Paris by 1911 through, among others, the music of Irving Berlin and the popular dance couple 'Vernon and Irene Castle'.
  • 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.. [time and place]'
    • 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.
    • 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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