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Futurism even extended to household items. This coffee set example by Luigi Caccia Dominioni seems to have dynamic motion, even while stationary.

A History of the 20th Century Futurismo Movement in Italian Design

Part III of a Multipart Series

Futurismo, or Futurism was an artistic and social movement that originated in Italy in the early 20th century. It emphasized speed and technology in objects such as cars, the airplanes and industrial cities. Although it was largely an Italian phenomenon, there were derivative movements in many parts of Europe.

The Futurists practiced in every medium of art, including painting, sculpture, ceramics, graphic design, industrial design, interior design, urban design, theater, film, fashion, textiles, literature, music and architecture. Among its key figures were Italians Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Gino Severini, Giacomo Balla, Antonio Sant’Elia, Bruno Munari, Benedetta Cappa and Luigi Russolo and Fortunato Depero.

The movement glorified modernity and aimed to liberate Italy from the weight of its past. Cubism contributed to the formation of Italian Futurism’s artistic style. Important Futurist works included Marinetti’s ‘Manifesto of Futurism,’ Boccioni’s sculpture ‘Unique Forms of Continuity in Space,’ Balla’s painting ‘Abstract Speed + Sound’ and Russolo’s ‘The Art of Noises.’ Futurism had an influence on the movements Art Deco, Constructivism and Surrealism art movements

In The Art of Noises, Russolo argued that the human ear had become accustomed to the speed, energy, and noise of the urban industrial soundscape; furthermore, the new sonic palette required a new approach to musical instrumentation and composition. He proposed a number of theories and conclusions about how electronics and other technologies would allow futurist musicians to substitute for the limited variety of timbres that the orchestra possesses, with an infinite variety, reproduced by new mechanisms. His predictions came true decades later with the invention of synthesizer keyboards.

Umberto Boccioni (1882 – 1916) trained as a painter and began sculpting in 1912. His 1913 masterpiece ‘Unique Forms of Continuity in Space’ depicts a human-like figure apparently in motion. The sculpture has an aerodynamic and fluid form. As a pedestal, two blocks at the feet connect the figure to the ground. The figure is also armless and without a discernibly real face. The form was originally inspired by the sight of a soccer player receiving a perfectly timed pass. He died after being thrown from his horse during the First World War. His casting of the sculpture only took place in the years following his death.

Fortunato Depero (March 30, 1892 – November 29, 1960) was an Italian futurist painter, writer, sculptor and graphic designer. On a 1913 trip to Florence, Depero came across an article by one of the founders of the futurism movement, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. Depero was inspired. In 1919 he founded “Casa d’Arte Futurista” (House of Futurist Art) in Rovereto, which specializing in producing toys, tapestries and furniture in the futurist style. In 1925, he represented the futurists at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts). 1928 saw Depero move to New York City, where he experienced success designing costumes for stage productions and designing covers for magazines including MovieMaker, The New Yorker and Vogue. In 1930 he returned to Italy. In the 1930s and 40s Depero continued working, although due to futurism being linked with fascism, the movement had started to wane.

Many of his works are featured in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto. Casa d’Arte Futurista Depero is Italy’s only museum dedicated to the Futurist movement, containing 3,000 objects. It was closed for many years for extensive refurbishment, but reopened its doors in 2009 and is the premiere place to view everything from Futurist art to the movement’s industrial applications. It is also located in the city of Rovereto, in the province of Trentino.