By Adriana Baranello and Anne Leader
On 18 July 1871, Futurist Giacomo Balla was born in Turin where he began his art studies. He moved to Rome in 1895 and had work included in the 1899 Venice Biennale. Balla signed the Manifesto of Futurist Painters (1909) alongside Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Luigi Russolo, and Gino Severini. Despite mentorship of Boccioni and Severini (among many other later Futurist artists) he did not exhibit with the group until 1913. Along with the movement’s founder and a few others such as Enrico Prampolini, Balla was one of the only members to remain within the movement for almost its entire 35 years. Balla’s early works, such as the above Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash, as well as the similarly conceived Girl Running on a Balcony and Hand of the Violinist, both from 1912, were inspired by Muybridge and Marey’s studies of movement using photography, and were Balla’s attempts to capture motion through time and space on the canvas, per the tenets of the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting also from 1910.
Balla’s paintings from the mid 1910s were heavily invested in Interventionism, and emphasized patriotism, using the colors of the flag of the Kingdom of Italy with great frequency. Boccioni’s later paintings, many in the Aeropainting style, veer toward mysticism and abstraction, approaching it from the direction of color studies inspired by plant life. He was one of the few Futurists to approach abstraction at all, which was a pictorial convention that the movement generally rejected as not conducive to their ideological messages. In addition to painting and sculpture, Balla designed furniture and clothing, as well as stage sets, most famously and influentially for the 1917 staging of Igor Stravinsky’s 1908 Feu d’Artifice by Serge Diaghilev. The staging was almost entirely abstract, using moving stage sets and colored lighting that was set to the music.
Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (Dinamismo di un cane al guinzaglio), 1912, oil on canvas. Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo. Bequest of A. Conger Goodyear and Gift of George F. Goodyear, 1964.
Abstract Speed + Sound (Velocità astratta + rumore), 1913-14, oil on unvarnished millboard in artist’s painted frame. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice 76.2553.31 © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome
Boccioni’s Fist (Il pugno di Boccioni), ca. 1914, bronze.