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  Futurism was a European artistic movement of the early 20th century, devised by Filippo Marinetti and others, and announced in the Futurist Manifesto of 1909. The idea was to create works of art for a new century, reflecting and programming modern ideas without reference to concepts or methods of the past. The Futurists were in favour of modernity, speed, technology and the power of the machine. Because the idea of movement is inherent in all these aims, Futurist artists developed the concept of ‘dynamism’: the representation of human beings or machines in action. (Characteristic examples, both from the early 1910s, are Boccioni\'s Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, a sculpture which shows a striding bronze figure whose limbs transform, and are transformed by, space, and Balla\'s Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash, which shows a dog whose legs blur, cartoon-like, imitating the forward momentum of its owner.) The Futurists were also interested in ‘simultaneity’, representation of multiple viewpoints, similar to cubism, but with the addition of movement, for example in Carra\'s Simultaneity, Woman on a Balcony (1913).

The ideals of Futurism were taken over and modified in other arts. In literature, vocabulary and syntax were to be stripped of the clutter of the centuries: short words, sentences without redundant adverbs, adjectives (or even, if possible, verbs), single ideas in single expressions. In music, the ‘sounds of life’ (particularly machines and industrial processes) were to be welded to such modern styles as jazz, without 19th-century harmonic or formal baggage. In theatre, short scenes were favoured, with a tumble of progress analogous to the cutting and montage of film. (Film is the quintessentially Futurist performing art.)

Futurist concepts were rapidly absorbed by politics: the style became the favoured artistic idiom of both 1920s fascism and communism. Perhaps because of this, and its wide use in propaganda, it passed into popular culture more readily than most other types of modernist art, affecting advertising and design of all kinds, from buildings to teacups and from fabrics to film sets. Its uncluttered severity, and mass popularity, made it an important influence on artists of all kinds in the second half of the century. PD MG JM KMcL

Further reading M.W. Martin, Futurist Art and Theory.



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