Futurism, the first movement of this character, was conceived and organized as a movement by the Italian poet, Filippo Tomasso Marinetti. During the course of the year 1909 he distributed throughout the world a manifesto which in brave rhetorical phrases proclaimed the end of the art of the past ( le Passèisme) and the birth of an art of the future ( le Futurisme).
The state of consciousness in Europe and America which evoked such manifestations as Futurism and Dadaism still prevails: we still search for images 'to express the vortex of modern life--a life of steel, fever, pride and headlong speed'.
Futurism burst on Paris in February 1909, when the Italian poet, novelist and essayist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti Published in Le Figaro the manifesto of Futurist poetry, extolling the beauty of speed and aggressive movement, vowing to destroy museums, libraries and academic of every kind. Born in Egypt in 1876, Marinetti studied literature at the Sorbonne in Paris. In 1909 his play in French, King Bombance, was performed at the Théître de l'Œuvre. In the early part of 1910 three Italian painters, Carlo Carrà, Umberto Boccioni and Luigi Russolo, met Marinetti in Milan and, after lengthy discussions on the state of Italian art at the time, decided to issue a call to the young artists in the form of a manifesto. Carlo Carrà, in his Memoirs, writes that 'when distributed a few days later in thousands of copies, this appeal to fearless and open rebellion . . . had the effect of an electric charge'. The manifesto also bore the signatures of Giacomo Balla, who was living in Rome, and Gino Severini, who had been living in Paris for several years.
A second manifesto was launched in April of the same year. Like the text published in Le Figaro, the new manifesto extolled the dynamism of modern life, to which even the French avantgarde painters remained completely indifferent. The young signers of this programme then believed blindly in the no-Impressionist technique which Balla had taught Severini and Boccioni. A short trip to Paris gave them an opportunity of seeing the paintings of Picasso and Braque. They had really gone there with the intention of holding a first exhibition, but Severini succeeded in convincing them of the necessity for further work before venturing to face the Paris critics. When the exhibition actually took place, in February 1912, Futurism appeared to be an attempt to introduce into Cubist composition (vide Cubism) the dynamic element. While Severini brought to Futurism the pure colours of Seurat, Carrà, on the other hand, adopted the grey tonalities of the Cubists. Boccioni, the theoretician of the movement, never lost sight of the 'realism' of Picasso, visible even in his Cubist compositions. Russolo, by sheer poetic intuition, was already foreshadowing the advent of Surrealism.
From the first exhibition Severini emerged triumphant. In the following year, 1913, Giacomo Balla painted a series of masterpieces, suggested to him, it is true, by three of Severini's canvases entitled Spherical Expansion in Space. While the technical means of his companions was still uncertain, Balla was the only painter of the group to succeed in giving plastic expression to the desire for power proclaimed by Futurism. Boccioni, in his picture Elasticity and his sculptures, achieved results which were no less miraculous (vide Balla, Boccioni, Carrà, Severini).
It is clear that Futurism was more than just an impetuous rush towards the spirit of modernism, more than just a doctrine. In linking art with life, and conceiving of life as force, the Futurists posed the problem of art in a way which was quite new at the time: philosophically, as well as scientifically. Among their happier, intuitions are the ideas of 'simultaneity' and 'space'. While the simultaneity of which the French poet and critic Apollinaire spoke in 1913 concerned only vision and the laws of optics according to the latest scientific discoveries, the simultaneously postulated by the Futurists is essentially psychic, and is concerned with memories, associations, and all the diverse emotions which assail an artist at the moment of creating. On the subject of space, Boccioni ventured to speak of a fourth dimension, but that was neither a sufficient nor a particularly Futurist definition. The Futurists touched on the real problem when they announced that 'henceforth the spectator will be placed in the heart of the picture', which implies an absolutely original conception of space. Italian Futurism (to which Apollinaire lent his support for a short while) had numerous faithful supporters and emulators. Apollinaire went so far as to propose that all avant-garde tendencies be labelled 'Futurists', but Marinetti turned the suggestion down. The 1914-1918 war marked the end of the really interesting period of Futurism (which had been joined by such other artists as Soffici, Ottone Rossi and Mario Sironi), but Marinetti never gave up his movement. By 1930 there were no longer five or six Futurist painters, but five hundred. A name that deserves to be mentioned here is that of Enrico Prampolini, a painter and theatrical designer of indisputable merit.