Italian painter and sculptor born at Reggio in Calabria, 1882; died at Sorte, 1916. In Rome at the same time as Gino Severini, he learnt the basic rules of Divisionism (then the fashion in France) from the painter Giàcomo Balla, who had just returned from Paris. He made the acquaintance of Marinetti, after the publication of the first Futurist Manifesto in Le Figaro, and became the theoretician of the group (vide Futurism). His main preoccupation, both as painter and sculptor, was to give life to matter by translating it in terms of its movement. Above all, he struggled desperately to shake off previous influences, such as the 1900 style in particular, by which he felt poisoned. In his manifestos, and his book Futurist Sculpture and Painting, he stressed the necessity of universalizing the 'impressionist moment'. 'While the Impressionists create a picture in order to render a particular moment, and subordinate the life of the picture to this moment, we synthesize all moments (time, place, form, colour-tone) and so construct a picture.' The Futurist picture was required to express, in addition, sensations and states of mind, a far cry from the objectivity of Cubism. Banishing horizontal and vertical lines, which metaphysical painting, on the contrary, glorified, Boccioni invented 'line-force'; that is, the energy with which every object reacts to light and shade, energy which creates form-force and colourforces. His masterpiece is the canvas Elasticity, painted in 1912 after the Futurist exhibition in Paris. It is evident that if Boccioni had not seen the Cubists, he could not have painted this work, which is one of the most important of Futurist works. But Elasticity, the synthesis of a horse's movements in a race, nevertheless does express something more than a Cubist canvas of the same period. The same powerful lyricism is to be found in his sculptures: Syntheses of Human Dynaminism, exhibited in 1913 with the famous polimaterici (sculptures composed of various elements such as iron, wood, glass, etc).
Umberto Boccioni was called up when war was declared, and died in 1916, at the age of thirty-four, as the result of a fall from a horse.