On February, 5, 1912, the first Futurist exhibition outside Italy opened at Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in Paris. The exhibition featured the works of well-known Italian Futurist painters such as Gino Severini, Luigi Russolo, Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni and Carlo Carrà. The exhibition traveled throughout Europe and was shown in its entirety in London, Berlin and Brussels.
Futurism developed after 1909 with the publication of a manifesto by Filippo Marinetti outlining the principles of the new movement: opposition to artistic tradition; a glorification of violence, war, and patriotism; and a desire to give artistic expression to the dynamism of the modern world. Many of the futurist canvasses depicted the workings of the modern city, crowd scenes and machinery.
According to art historian David Ohara, “The dynamic analysis of the futurists, unlike the static analysis of the cubists, sought to depict a face that appeared and disappeared; not static images but images of a bus in motion, not a quiet landscape but buildings throwing themselves on a bus going by.”
The Paris exhibition was deliberately provocative and controversial. The Futurist artists aggressively intervened in the Parisian art scene, engaging in debates and heated arguments with representatives of the various avant-garde tendencies. Prior to the exhibition, Marinetti distributed a manifesto which included a polemic against the French cubists, whose depiction of nudes, use of a limited palette, and linear rigidity the Futurists opposed. The famous French poet Apollinaire was highly critical of the exhibition and denounced Futurism as “popular, flashy art.” He wrote a manifesto entitled Futurist Antitradition the following year.
Ironically, the exhibition contributed to a cross-pollination of Futurist and Cubist influences. Among other things, Cubist painters increasingly used bright colors, while Futurist painters experimented with the grey palette associated with Cubism.
Leon Trotsky later explained that the emergence of Futurism and its aggressive program reflected the breakup of the previous political and economic equilibrium and anticipated major social explosions.
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