Hailey Coral


Italian Futurism - Boccioni

When I visited the Palazzo Reale di Milano in June 2013, I saw several Picasso and Braque cubist paintings that displayed the signature edgy and dimensional look that Cubism is known to exhibit. Some of the Picasso and Braque pieces were actually difficult to tell apart because of their similar look and use of natural muddy tones. In contrast to these more dull color schemes though, displayed close by, were the works of the Italian futurist painter, Umberto Boccioni. Two of the paintings I snapped a quick photo of, were his Studio-di-testa, La Madre (Study of a head, Mother) and Donna al caffè : Compenetrations di luci e Planes (Woman in a Café: Compenetrations of Lights and Planes). Futurism, being an analytical branch of Cubism, means that paintings were drawn from real life models or observations. The basic shapes, colors, and interpretations of Futurist paintings are created from taking real life subjects and finding their core forms and tones, usually resulting in very geometric and monochromatic paintings. These two particular paintings by Boccioni are actually much more colorful than most Futurist works, both incorporating more colors than the usual monochromatic color schemes seen in this movement. In Study of a Head, Mother the colors are not extremely saturated, but that may just be because of the faded canvas background. However, the use of color on the face is much warmer and realistic than the colors in those in his Woman in a Café. Study of a Head, Mother is no doubt categorized as an analytic Futurist painting because of it's simplified forms of the cheeks, eyes, hair, and body of this elder woman, but I must say that the colors most definitely seem more realistic than most other futurist paintings. The face is warm and bright, like skin, and though the hair and body are darker and blue, their tones give a realistic contrast to the skin tone. The woman herself also has emotion in her face and posture that is much more readable than the other Futurist paintings of the time which exhibit less emotion, and more focus on movement, and basic shape. The Woman in a Café: Compenetrations of Lights and Planes, on the other hand, is a more mainstream example of Futurism. It's less realistic color scheme and strong feeling of movement are more established in the Futurism movement overall. Though after reading the name of this piece, one may be able to make out the face of a woman, and maybe even a coffee table (and sugar cube tray?) it is much more difficult to make out what these shapes represent, and the overall movement, aura, and mood of this piece are more evident. That being said, seen from an analytical viewpoint, this painting makes much more sense, for Analytical Futurism was also known to focus on examining something in its entirety, not just as it looks like in real life. In this way, once knowing the name of this piece, one can feel more of an overall essence of this woman in this place and time. Boccioni's futurist works are extremely interesting in that they exhibit two very different approaches to the movement, both created within (at most) two years of one another. Milan Museo del Novecento. Photo by Hailey Thomson

Umberto Boccioni. Study of a Head, Mother. Image found on WikiArt.org

Umberto Boccioni. Woman in a Café: Compenetrations of Lights and Planes. Image found on WikiArt.Org