Umberto Boccioni

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Umberto Boccioni
'Visioni simultanee' - 1911/1912
Horizontal Volumes by Umberto Boccioni, 1912
bronze sculpture 'Unique Forms of Continuity in Space', 1913
The Morning, 1909
Three Women, 1910

Umberto Boccioni (October 19, 1882August 17, 1916) was an Italian painter and sculptor in Futurism. Despite his short life he helped shape the revolutionary aesthetic of movement (dynamism), speed, and technology of the Futurism movement as one of its principal figures.


Quotes of Umberto Boccioni[edit]

chronologically arranged, after date of the quotes


1910[edit]

'Manifesto of Futurist Painters', February 1910[edit]

Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Luigi Russolo, Giacomo Balla and Gino Severini, 'Manifesto of Futurist Painters', 11 February 1910; Original: 'Manifesto dei pittori futuristi.' 11 Febraio 1911 at gutenberg.org p. 24.; Transl. Roberto Brain, in: Documents of 20th Century Art: Futurist Manifestos. Robert, R.W. Brain et al. (eds.), New York: Viking Press, 1973. pp. 24-27
  • To the Young Artists of Italy!
    The cry of rebellion that we launch, linking our ideals with those of the Futurist poets, does not originate in an aesthetic clique. It expresses the violent desire that stirs in the veins of every creative artist today.
    • Original text:
      Agli artisti giovani d'Italia!
      Il grido di ribellione che noi lanciamo, associando i nostri ideali a quelli dei poeti futuristi, non parte già da una chiesuola estetica, ma esprime il violento desiderio che ribolle oggi nelle vene di ogni artista creatore.
    • p. 24: Lead paragraph


  • With our enthusiastic adherence to Futurism, we will:
  1. Destroy the cult of the past, the obsession with the ancients, pedantry and academic formalism.
  2. Totally invalidate all kinds of imitation.
  3. Elevate all attempts at originality, however daring, however violent.
  4. Bear bravely and proudly the smear of 'madness' with which they try to gag all innovators.
  5. Regard art critics as useless and dangerous.
  6. Rebel against the tyranny of words: 'Harmony' and 'good taste' and other loose expressions which can be used to destroy the works of Rembrandt, Goya, Rodin..
  7. Sweep the whole field of art clean of all themes and subjects which have been used in the past.
  8. Support and glory in our day-to-day world, a world which is going to be continually and splendidly transformed by victorious Science.
The dead shall be buried in the earth's deepest bowels!
  • p. 27: quoted in: William Boulware Schafer (1995) The Turn of the Century: The First Futurists. p. 57


'Manifesto of Futurist Painters,' April 1910[edit]

Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Luigi Russolo, Giacomo Balla and Gino Severini, 'Manifesto of Futurist Painters', April 1910;
  • In the first Manifesto that we launched on the 8th of March, 1910, from the stage of the Chiarella Theater in Turin, we expressed our deep-rooted disgust with, our proud contempt for, and our happy rebellion against vulgarity, mediocrity, the fanatical and snobbish worship of all that is old, attitudes which are suffocating Art in our Country.
    • In: Rainey et al. (eds.) Futurism: An Anthology, (2009), p. 64 : Lead paragraph


  • What was the truth for the painters of yesterday is but a falsehood today. We declare, for instance, that a portrait must not like the sitter.. .To paint a human figure, you must not paint it; you must render its surrounding [aura-like] atmosphere. Space no longer exists.. .Who can still believe in the opacity of bodies, since our sharpened and multiplied sensibilities has already penetrated the obscure manifestations of mediums? Why should we forget in our creations the doubled power of our sight, capable of giving analogous to those of X-rays?
    • As quoted in: John F. Moffitt (2003) Alchemist of the Avant-Garde: The Case of Marcel Duchamp, p. 87.


  • The gesture which we would reproduce on canvas shall no longer be a fixed moment in universal dynamism. It shall simply be the dynamic sensation itself. Indeed, all things move, all things run, all things are rapidly changing.. .We would at any price re-enter into life.
    • As quoted in Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008, p. 23.


  • Our bodies penetrate the sofas upon which we sit and the sofas penetrate our bodies. The motorbus rushes into the houses which it passes, and in their turn the houses throw themselves upon the bus and are blended with it.
    • As quoted in Futurism, ed. By Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008, p. 64.


  • Your eyes, accustomed to semi-darkness, will soon open to more radiant visions of light. The shadows which we shall paint shall be more luminous than the high-lights of our predecessors, and our pictures, next to those of the museums, will shine like blinding daylight, compared with deepest night. We conclude that painting cannot exist today without divisionism.. .w:Divisionism - [ Paul Signac initiated divisionism slightly earlier, together with Seurat ] - for the modern painter, must be an innate complementariness which we declare to be essential and necessary.
    • As quoted in Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008, p. 92.


  • The time has passed for our sensations in painting to be whispered. We wish them in the future to sing and re-echo upon our canvasses in deafening and triumphant flourishes.
    • As quoted in Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008, p. 132.


  • It will be readily admitted that brown tints have never coursed beneath our skin; it will be discovered that yellow shines forth in our flesh, that red blazes, and that green, blue and violet dance upon it with untold charms, voluptuous and caressing.
    • As quoted in Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008, p. 136.


  • Who can still believe in the opacity of bodies since our sharpened and modified sensitivity has already penetrated the obscure manifestations of the medium? Why should we forget in our creations the double power of our sight, capable of giving results analogous to those of X-rays?
    • As quoted in Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008, p. 154.


  • The sixteen people around you in a rolling omnibus are in turn and at the same time one, ten, four, three; they are motionless and they change places; they come and go, bound into the street, are suddenly swallowed up by the sunshine, then come back and sit before you, like persistent symbols of universal vibration. How often have we not seen upon the cheek of the person with whom we are talking the horse which we passes at the end of the street.
    • As quoted in Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008, p. 167.


  • A profile is never motionless before our eyes, but it constantly appears and disappears. On account of the persistency of an image upon the retina, moving objects constantly multiply themselves; their form changes like rapid vibrations.. .To paint a human figure you must not paint it; you must render the whole of its surrounding atmosphere.
    • As quoted in Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008, p. 172.


  • How is it possible still to see the human face pink, now that our life, redoubled by noctambulism, has multiplied our perceptions as colourists? The human face is yellow, red, green, blue, violet.
    • As quoted in Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008, p. 174


1911[edit]

  • 'The street enters the house'.
    • the title of one of Boccioni's most Futurist paintings: 'The street enters the house'; Boccioni painted it in 1911.


  • Get all the information you can about the Cubists, and about Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso. Go to Kahnweilers' (Paris art gallery). And if he's got photos of recent works – produced after I have left -, buy one or two. Bring us [the Futurists in Italy, like Boccioni himself] back all the information you can get.
    • In: a letter to Gino Severini, staying in Paris in the Summer of 1911; as quoted in Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008, p. 27.


  • .. the number of the engine [of the train], its profile shown in the upper part of the picture, its wind-cutting fore-part in the center, symbolical of parting, indicates the features of the scene that remain indelibly impressed upon the mind [of the viewer].
    • In: Inventing Futurism: The Art and Politics of Artificial Optimism, by Christine Poggi, Princeton University Press, 2009, p. 21
    • a note on his tryptich painting, he made late in 1911, containing the canvasses 'States of Mind II', 'The farewells', 'Those Who go Those who Stay'.


Boccioni's lecture 'La Pittura Futurista', 1911[edit]

Boccionis lecture 'La Pittura Futurista' in Rome, May 1911; as quoted in Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008.
  • A time will come when the picture will no longer be enough. Its immobility will become an archaism with the vertiginous movement of human life. The eye of man will perceive colours as feelings within itself. Multiplied colours will not need form to be understood and paintings will be swirling musical compositions of great coloured gases, which, on the scene of a free horizon, will move and electrify the complex soul of a crowd that we cannot yet conceive of.
    • Quote in his lecture at the Associazione Artistica Internationale, Rome May 1911; as quoted in Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008, p. 55.


  • It is also true that without flashes of the absolute, which are granted to only a few, humanity would proceed in the dark, indeed it would not exist, because it would not acknowledge itself to itself! And as far as I know the flash as never preceded by explanations or preambles, and only a very small mind.. ..could fail to understand that eternal aspiration absolute and that the work is the relative, that to create is already to circumscribe; that to comment is to circumscribe the circumscribed, is to subdivide the divided; is to reduce to minimum terms, is to annihilate.
    • Boccioni's quote, from his lecture, Rome, May 1911; as quoted in Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008, p. 55


1912[edit]

  • I work a lot but don't seem to finish. That is, I hope what I am doing means something because I don't know what I am doing. It's strange and terrible but I feel calm. Today I worked non-stop for six hours on a sculpture and I don't know what the result is.. .Planes upon planes, sections of muscles, of a face and then? And the total effect? Does what I create live? Where will I end up?
    • Boccioni's quote in an undated letter to Gino Severini (probably July or August 1912, or November); as quoted in Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008.


  • The commitment I have made is terrible and the plastic means appear and disappear at the moment of implementation. It's terrible.. .And the chaos of will? What law? It’s terrible.. .Then I struggle with sculpture: I work, work and work and I don't know what I give. Is it interior? Is it exterior? Is it sensation? Is it delirium? Is it brain? Analysis? Synthesis? I don't know what the f... it is! Forms on forms.. confusion.. .The Cubists are wrong. Picasso is wrong. The academics are wrong. We're all a bunch of d..heads.
    • In: an 2nd undated letter to Gino Severini (probably July or August 1912, or November); as quoted in Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008.


Boccioni's 'Sculptural Manifesto', 1912,[edit]

  • ..since our past is the greatest in the world and thus all the more dangerous for our life!.. .We must smash, demolish and destroy our traditional harmony, which makes us fall into a 'gracefullness' created by timid and sentimental cubs [cubs refers sneering to the Cubists ].
    • as quoted in Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008.


  • Sculpture is based on the abstract of the planes and volumes that determine the forms, not their figurative value.


'Les exposants au public', 1912[edit]

'Les exposants au public' - exh. Cat. Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, February 1912
  • [the Cubist painters who] ..continued to paint objects motionless, frozen, and all the static aspects of Nature; they worship the traditionalism of w:Poussin, of w:Ingres, of Corot, ageing and petrifying their art with an obstinate attachment to the past, which to our eyes remains totally incomprehensible.
    • pp. 2, 3.


  • ..Is it indisputable that several aesthetic declarations of our French comrades (the Cubists) display a sort of masked academicism. It is not, indeed, a return to the Academy to declare that the subject, in painting, has a perfectly insignificant value?.. .To paint from the posing model as an absurdity, and an act of mental cowardice, even if the model be translated upon the picture in linear, spherical and cubic forms..
    • pp. 2, 3.


  • If we paint the phases of a riot, the crowd bustling with uplifted fists and the noisy onslaughts of cavalry are translated upon the canvas in sheaves of lines corresponding with all the conflicting forces, following the general laws of violence of the picture.. .These force-lines must encircle and involve the spectator so that he will in a manner be forced to struggle himself with the persons in the picture.
    • p. 8.


  • Not only have we radically abandoned the motive fully developed according to its determined and, therefore, artificial equilibrium, but we suddenly and purposely intersect each motif with one or more other motifs of which we never give the full development but merely the initial, central, of final notes.. .We thus arrived at what we call the painting of states of mind.
    • p. 8.


  • Let us explain again by examples. In painting a person on a balcony, seen from inside the room do not limit the scene to what the square of the window renders visible; we try to render the sum total of visual sensations which the person on the balcony has experienced; the sun-baked throng in the street, the double row of houses which stretch to right and left, the beflowered balconies etc. This implies the simultaneity of the ambient, and, therefore, the dislocation and the dislocation and dismemberment of objects, the scattering and fusion of details, freed from accepted logic and independent from one another. In order to make the spectator live in the center of the picture, as we express it in our manifesto the picture must be the synthesis of what one remembers and what one sees. You must render the invisible which stirs lives beyond intervening obstacles, what we have on the right, or the left, or behind us, and not merely the small square of life artificially compressed, as it were, by the wings of a stage set. We have declared in our manifesto that what must be rendered is the dynamic sensation, that is to say, the particular rhythm of each object, its inclination, its movement, or more exactly, its interior force.
    • Boccioni is referring in this quote to the 'Manifesto of Futurist Painters' of 1910, and its core Futurist concept of dynamic sensation; p. 47.


  • The simultaneousness of states of mind in the work of art: that is the intoxicating aim of our art.. .In the pictorial description of the various states of mind of a leave-taking, perpendicular lines, undulating lines and as it were worn out, clinging here and there to silhouettes of empty bodies, may well express languidness and discouragement. Confused and trepidating lines, either straight or curved, mingled with the outlined hurried gestures of people calling to one another will express a sensation of chaotic excitement. On the other hand, horizontal lines, fleeting, rapid and jerky, brutally cutting in half lost profiles of faces or crumbling and rebounding fragments of landscape, will give the tumultuous feelings of the person going away.
    • pp. 47, 49


1913[edit]

  • [to erect].. ..a new altar throbbing with dynamism as pure and exultant as those which were elevated to divine mystery through religious contemplation.
    • In: a letter to Nino Barbantini, 1913; as quoted in Futurism, ed. By Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008.


  • Balla [his former art teacher in Italy] flabbergasted us because, not content with being involved in a Futurist campaign, as you can well imagine him doing, he launched himself into a complete transformation. He rejected all his works and all his working methods. He started work on four pictures of movement (one painting was his 'Girl running on a balcony'), which were still realist but incredible ahead of their time.. ..He confided this to w:Aldo Pallazzeschi: 'They (Balla's former - so much younger pupils Boccioni and Severini] did not want anything to do with me in Paris and they were right: they have gone much further than I, but I will work and I too will progress.'
    • In: a letter to Gino Severini, Jan. 1913; as quoted in Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008
    • Boccioni is referring in this quote to their common former teacher Balla who lived and worked that time in Paris


  • With this new tendency [of Orphism] the Cubists dubbed Impressionism of forms according to Appolinaire, is entering a final and glorious phase: ..Orphism, pure painting, simultaneity. And there you have it, as many obvious plagiarisms of what has formed, from its earliest appearances, the essence of Futurist painting and sculpture.. ..But we insist on sorting things out. Orphism [initiated by former Cubist artist Robert Delaunay as an colorful alternative for strict Cubism ], let us say it right away, is just an elegant masquerade of the basic principles of Futurist painting. This new trend simply illustrates the profit that our French colleagues managed to driver from our first Futurist exhibition in Paris.
    • Umberto Boccioni's critical art quote to Orphism and simultaneity pictures Orphism, as alternative concept for Cubism as a soft version of Futurist painting; in 'Les futurists plagues en France', Boccioni, in 'Lacerba', Florence 1, no. 7, 1 April 1913


  • From our very first conversation in the Closerie des Lilas the day after the opening of the first exhibition of Futurist painting [in Paris, February 1912] I noticed that Fernand Léger was one of the most gifted and promising Cubists.. .Léger's article ('Les origins de la peinture et sa valeur representative', Mai 1913) is a true act of Futurist faith which give us great satisfaction - all the more so since the author is kind enough to mention us.
    • In: 'Il dinamismo futurista et la pittura francese', Boccioni, in 'Lacerba', August 1913; as quoted in Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008, p. 118


1914 - 1916[edit]

  • All shadows have their light, each shadow being an autonomous unit forming a new individuality with its own chiaroscuro: it is no longer a form that is half-shadow, half-light, as hat hitherto been the case.
    • In: 'Dynanisme plastique' 1914, Boccioni; as quoted in Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008, p. 132


  • We wanted a complementarity of form and colour. So we made a synthesis of analyses of colour (the divisionism of Seurat, Signac and Cross) and analyses of form (of Picasso and Georges Braque).
    • In: 'Dynanisme plastique' 1914, Boccioni; as quoted in Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008, p. 134


  • No one can any longer believe that an object ends where another begins.
    • In Boccioni's text 'Dynamism of a Speeding Horse & Houses', 1914/15
    • quote is referring to the starting photography of 'moving horses' c. 1914


  • The harmony of the lines and folds of modern dress works upon our sensitiveness with the same emotional and symbolical power as did the nude upon the sensitiveness of the old masters.
    • as quoted in Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008, p. 154.


'Pittura e scultura futuriste' Milan, 1914[edit]

'Pittura e scultura futuriste (dinamismo plastico)' Boccioni, Milan, 1914
  • While the impressionists make a table to give one particular moment and subordinate the life of the table to its resemblance to this moment, we synthesize every moment (time, place, form, color-tone) and thus build the table.


  • ..the characteristic motion peculiar to the object (absolute motion), with the transformations the object undergoes in its shifting in relation to the environment, mobile or immobile (relative motion; both motions should be conceived in art)
    • Boccioni's quote on motion; as quoted in Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008, p. 328.


  • The first painting to appear with an affirmation of simultaneity was mine and had the following title: 'Simultaneous visions', [Boccioni painted in 1911]. It was exhibited in the galerie Bernheim in Paris, and in the same exhibition my Futurist painter friends also appeared with similar experiments in simultaneity.
    • Boccioni's quote on early realized simultaneity in his art; as quoted in Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008, p. 458.


  • ..the moving whirlwind of modernity through its crowds, its cars, its telegraph poles, its bare, working-class neighbourhoods, its noises, its squeals, its violence, its cruelty, its cynicism, and its relentless pushiness.
    • In: Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008.


  • A horse in movement is not a stationary horse that moves but a horse in a movement, which is to say something other, that should be conceived and expressed as something completely different. It is a question of conceiving objects in movement over and above the motion they carry within themselves. That is, a question of finding a form which is the expression of this new absolute.. .A question of studying the aspects that life has taken on in haste and in consequent simultaneity.
    • In: Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008.


Quotes about Boccioni[edit]

chronologically arranged, after date of the quote
  • ..a member of anarchist and revolutionary circles, attracted in turn by violent action and by dream, before resolving to dedicate him to painting.
    • Filippo Marinetti, in the 'Preface' of Boccioni's show at Ca' Pesaro, July 1910; as quoted in Inventing Futurism: The Art and Politics of Artificial Optimism, by Christine Poggi, Princeton University Press, 2009, p. 107, note 86


  • They did not want anything to do with me in Paris and they [the younger Futurist artists Boccioni and Gino Severini ] were right: they have gone much further than I, but I will work and I too will progress.
    • Giacomo Balla his former art-teacher - repeated in a letter of Umberto Boccioni to his Futurist art-friend Gino Severini, Jan. 1913; as quoted in Futurism, ed. By Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008, p. 248; Balla was referring to his former pupils, the young Futurist painters Boccioni and Severini.


  • This bubbling and whirling of forms and lights, composed of sounds, noises, and smells has been partly achieved by me [= Carra,] in my 'Anarchical funeral' [the painting, Carra painted ca 1910-1911].. ..by Boccioni in his 'States of Minds' and 'Forces of a Street' [both paintings, which Boccioni painted in 1911], by Russolo in 'Rebellion' (1911) and Severini in 'Pan-Pan' [the first version, which Severini painted in 1909-1911], paintings which were violently discussed at our first Paris [Futurist] exhibition in 1912.
    • Carlo Carrà, in: 'La Pittura dei suoni, rumori, odori Carrà', 11 Aug 1913, as quoted in Futurism, ed. Didier Ottinger; Centre Pompidou / 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2008, p. 142


  • Boccioni, Russolo and I all met in the Porta Vittoria café [in Milan, Italy], close to where we all lived, and we enthusiastically outlined a draft of our appeal [the Manifesto of Futurist Painters, late February, 1910]. The final version was somewhat laborious; we worked on it all day, all three of us and finished it that evening with Marinetti and the help of w:Decio Cinti, the group's secretary.
    • Carlo Carrà in: Éclat de choses ordinaries Carrà, (1913), as quoted in Futurism, Didier Ottinger (ed.), 2008, p. 27
    • the painters Bonzagni and Romani signed this famous Manifesto version too, but withdraw soon; they were replaced by Giacomo Balla and Gino Severini


  • Boccioni and I were swiftly persuaded that with this show in Paris we were staking our all; for a flop would have meant kissing our fine aspirations goodbye. This is why we decided to go to Paris, to see what the art situation there was like.
    • Quote of Carlo Carrà, in: 'Éclat de choses ordinaries Carrà', (1913), as quoted in Futurism, Didier Ottinger (ed.), 2008, p. 27




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