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Definition: futurism from Philip's Encyclopedia

Art movement that originated in Italy (1909) with the publication of the first futurist manifesto. It aimed to glorify machines and to depict speed and motion by means of an adapted version of cubism. It was violently opposed to the study of art of the past and embraced the values of modernity. Leading futurists include the poet Marinetti. Its ideas were absorbed by the Dada movement and by surrealism.


Summary Article: Futurism
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Avant-garde art movement founded in 1909 that celebrated the dynamism of the modern world. It was chiefly an Italian movement and was mainly expressed in painting, but it also embraced other arts, including literature and music, and it had extensive influence outside Italy, particularly in Russia. In Italy the movement virtually died out during World War I, but in Russia it continued to flourish into the 1920s.

Futurism was founded by the Italian writer Filippo Tommaso Marinetti when he published a manifesto attacking established cultural values in the Parisian newspaper Le Figaro on 20 February 1909. Marinetti came from a wealthy family, so he had the financial means to stage effective publicity. He also had a flamboyant temperament, which gained attention for Futurism everywhere he went. Like many Italians of the time, he thought that his country and his country's art had become stagnant, and he called for a new art glorifying modern technology, machines, noise, pollution, cities, energy, and violence. Futurism was a refreshing contrast to the sentimentality of Romanticism. It embraced all things modern – the exciting new world – using new techniques and technology in its work. Futurism was therefore very unusual among art movements in that it started with a name and idea, with the works of art expressing that idea coming afterwards.

Marinetti's manifesto found many supporters in Italy, including a number of painters in Milan who formed the nucleus of the Futurist group. These were Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, and Luigi Russolo. In 1910 they produced two manifestos of Futurist painting, to which Giacomo Balla and Gino Severini were also signatories. The manifestos were concerned with the idea of conveying a sense of movement, and this is one of the essential features of Futurist painting. Sometimes movement was conveyed by blurring forms or overlapping images in the manner of high-speed multiple-exposure photography. The fragmented forms of cubism and the bright, broken colours of neo-Impressionism were major influences. Usually the Futurists took their subjects from modern city life, machines, and power, and this influenced cubists and constructivists.

The Futurists had numerous exhibitions of their work (in 1912 their first group exhibition travelled to various major European cities, including Amsterdam, Berlin, London, Paris, and Vienna), and they also spread their ideas through public meetings and other events skilfully staged by Marinetti. Although the war ended the movement as a significant force, it had already had a strong influence, for example on Vorticism in England, and during the war its provocative publicity techniques were adopted by the Dadaists (see Dada). After the war Marinetti continued to promote Futurism. He was a friend of Mussolini and supported fascism, but it is not true, as is sometimes claimed, that Futurism was ‘the official art of fascism’. Fascism used both traditional and avant-garde art for propaganda purposes, and Futurism was one of a number of movements plundered for imagery.

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