Skip to main content
Select Source:

Umberto Boccioni

Umberto Boccioni

The Italian artist Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916) was the leading theoretician of futurism, the most talented of its painters, and the creator of its first sculptures. He is considered the master of the innovative esthetic generated by the machine age.

Umberto Boccioni was born on Oct. 19, 1882, in Reggio Calabria. He went to Rome in 1900 and studied with Giacomo Balla, who revealed the theory of divisionism to him. Boccioni also studied at the Academy of the Brera in Milan. In 1904-1905 he visited Paris and Russia.

To Boccioni's searching spirit the meeting with the poet Filippo Marinetti in 1909 was an event of the utmost importance. Marinetti, the initiator and great orator of the futurist movement, converted Boccioni to his principles. Together with Gino Severini, Carlo Carrà, Balla, and Luigi Russolo, Boccioni signed the "Manifesto of Futurist Painters" in Milan in 1910.

Futurist Painting

Boccioni became the leading theorist of futurist art, both in painting and sculpture. He was the most intellectually active and artistically creative of all the futurist artists. One of his aims was to vitalize matter (Materia, 1912). Matter had to serve as the expression of emotion and states of mind (States of Mind, 1911). The term linee forze, or lines of force, signifies in Boccioni's work the energies which dominate matter and spirit. His famous picture Forces of a Street (1911) is a synthesis of the time and space elements and of form, color, and tone. All the lines of force are in action: the traffic in the streets, the light rays coming from the windows and doors, the light from the sky descending on the busy scene and adding a transcendental quality to it. Geometric forms and intensive colors are in perpetual interplay. The beholder is drawn into the vortex of this field of energies, which even includes "painted sounds." Figures float through the picture in a shadowy, schematic manner. What is more important to Boccioni than the representation of the figures is the human reaction to the experience of the forces of the street. Pictures like this are the esthetic reflections of the industrial era.

The painting Elasticity (1912) is the synthesis of the movement of a galloping horse. Similarly, a synthesis of human movement is found in the paintings Muscular Dynamics and Dynamics of a Human Body.

Futurist Sculpture

Boccioni's first futurist sculpture dates from 1911. In 1912 he wrote his "Manifesto of Futurist Sculpture," in which he propounded the use of unconventional, hitherto unacceptable materials. The "totality" Boccioni strove for was the simultaneous representation of the temporal evolution of an action. His revolutionary dictum for sculpture, "Let us open the figure like a window and include in it the milieu in which it lives," is illustrated by Development of a Bottle in Space (1912) and Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913). Even rays of light were formally incorporated in such sculptures as Head and House and Light.

Boccioni took part in all the important futurist exhibitions in Europe and America, beginning with the Paris exhibition of 1912. His book Pittura, scultura futuriste: Dinamismo plastico (1914) is the most comprehensive statement of futurism written by one of the original members of the movement.

Boccioni was wounded in World War I. While convalescing, he was killed in a riding accident in Sorte in 1916.

Further Reading

In English, Boccioni's work is discussed in Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Cubism and Abstract Art (1936); James Thrall Soby and Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Twentieth-Century Italian Art (1949); and Raffaele Carriere, Avant-Garde Painting and Sculpture in Italy, 1890-1955 (1955) and Futurism (1961; trans. 1963). There are several good works on the artist in Italian. □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Umberto Boccioni." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Umberto Boccioni." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/umberto-boccioni

"Umberto Boccioni." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved September 22, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/umberto-boccioni

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Boccioni, Umberto

Umberto Boccioni (ōōmbĕr´tō bŏt-chô´nē), 1882–1916, Italian futurist painter and sculptor. He played a primary role in the drafting of the manifesto of futurism in 1910 and was the major figure in the movement until 1914. In his famous, characteristic painting, The City Rises (1910; Mus. of Modern Art, New York City), he interpreted powerfully the technological turbulence of modern civilization. Influenced by Medardo Rosso, Boccioni turned to sculpture in 1912 and sought to translate light and motion into mass. His sculpture Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913; Mus. of Modern Art) embodies his concept of "lines of force" to replace the use of straight lines.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Boccioni, Umberto." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Boccioni, Umberto." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/boccioni-umberto

"Boccioni, Umberto." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved September 22, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/boccioni-umberto

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.