By Anne Leader and Martina Tanga

Gino Severini was born on 7 April 1883 in Cortona. He moved to Rome at age fifteen where he worked as an accountant. Night art classes led him to befriend Umberto Boccioni and later Giacomo Balla. Attracted by the avant-garde, he moved to Paris in 1906 and joined the community of artists and writers near Monmartre that included Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, Georges Braque, Amedeo Modigliani; Lugné-Poë and his theatrical group; the poets Guillaume Apollinaire, Paul Fort, and Max Jacob; and author Jules Romains. He also studied the work of Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, especially Georges Seurat. 

The Futurist movement became official in 1909, and Severini, at the invitation of Boccioni and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, signed the “Manifesto tecnico della pittura futurista” in April 1910. A pivotal figure in the group, he was one of the organizers of the first Futurist exhibition at Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, in February 1912. A year later, he had solo shows at the Marlborough Gallery, London, and Der Sturm, Berlin. Severini developed an important network and acted as a link between artists in France, Italy, and Germany. He embraced the Futurist conviction that war would provide an important fresh start for the world, and as Italy entered the World War I in 1915 he painted a series depicting the drama of military combat. Poor health prevented Severini from enlisting in the military and experiences the horrors of war first hand. As reports of the devastation and destruction began to surface, Severini shifted his position, and after the War, he painted figurative subjects from the traditional commedia dell’arte in a Synthetic Cubist mode.

From the 1920s onwards, Severini divided his time between Paris and Rome. His work grew larger in scale as he undertook important mural commissions in various mediums in Switzerland, France, and Italy. He returned to Paris in 1946 and remained there until his death twenty years later.

Armored Train in Action, oil on canvas, 1915, New York, Museum of Modern Art, Gift of Richard S. Zeisler © 2014 Gino Severini / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Red Cross Train Passing a Village (Train de la Croix Rouge traversant un village), summer 1915. Oil on canvas, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection 44.944 © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

Visual Synthesis of the Idea: “War,” 1914, oil on canvas, New York, Museum of Modern Art, Bequest of Sylvia Slifka, © 2014 Gino Severini / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Gino Severini, aged 30, at the opening of his solo exhibition at the Marlborough Gallery, London

Blue Dancer (Ballerina blu), 1912, oil on canvas with sequins, Gianni Mattioli Collection, long-term loan to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice © Gino Severini, by SIAE 2008

Dynamic Hieroglyphic of the Bal Tabarin, oil on canvas with sequins, 1912, New York, Museum of Modern Art, Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest © 2014 Gino Severini / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

St. Mark, mosaic, San Marco, Cortona

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