Italian painter, born in Turin in 1871. Balla is Futurism's most astonishing manifestation. He made himself known through academic paintings, which were thought highly of by the critics of the time. During a brief stay in Paris, he discovered Impressionism and Divisionism and developed a passion for problems of light and colour. On his return to Rome he made the acquaintance of Severini and Boccioni, and imparted the new creed to them. In 1901 he was converted to Futurism by Marinetti. Three years later his picture Dog on a Leash, now in the Museum of Modern Art, New York, was received with derision by a public still hostile to avant-garde tendencies. In this rather childish analysis of movement he reproduced the mechanics of walking by depicting on the canvas the successive positions taken up by a woman's legs and a little dog's paws, in the manner of a film in slow motion.
Of the five signers of the Futurist manifesto, he was the only one who did not take part in the Paris exhibition. He never really understood the meaning of Futurism until he saw Severini Spherical Expansion in Space. From 1913; to 1916 he painted a whole series of pictures, among them Mercury Passing Before the Sun, which are reckoned among the most abstract works that Futurism has given us, although they are inspired by Nature. Balla succeeded in giving an original and finished plastic form to the sensations, the movement, and the 'states of the soul' which Futurism, at first analytical, afterwards sought to synthesize in a single and unique expression, taking its example from Cubism. If we consider not the intention but the results, it must be recognized that Balla, unwittingly perhaps, went beyond the limits of Futurism to take his place alongside the leading masters of abstract art. Unfortunately, this period of authentic invention, which found no response in a world entirely preoccupied with war at the time, was of brief duration. His pioneering work remained almost unknown for a long time, and has only recently been brought to light, thanks to a number of exhibitions and some very just writing on the subject.