Manifesto of Futurist Sacred Art (English translation)

Originally published June 23, 1931 in Gazzetta del Popolo.

© Translation generously provided by Chris Adams (Estorick Collection) and was published in the exhibition catalog for Piety and Pragmatism (26 September – 23 December 2006, Estorick Collection, London).

Given that it was not essential to practise the Catholic religion in order to create masterpieces of sacred art, and that an art without evolution is destined to die, Futurism – distributor of energy – confronts sacred art with the following choice: either renounce any ambitions to inspire the faithful, or submit to complete regeneration through the principles of synthesis, transfiguration, the dynamism of time-space interpenetration, the simultaneity of states of mind and the geometric splendour of the machine aesthetic.

Necessary Modernisation

The use of electric light to decorate churches with its blue-white brilliance, superior in celestial purity to the carnal, lustful, reddish-yellow of candlelight; the marvellous sacred paintings of Gerardo Dottori, the first Futurist to infuse sacred art with an original intensity; the Futurist frescoes by Gino Severini in various Swiss churches; the many Futurist cathedrals of dynamic forms constructed from reinforced concrete, crystal and steel that have been realised in Germany and Switzerland: all these things represent the first signs of this necessary modernisation of sacred art.

In fact:

  1. Only Futurist artists, being gifted with unlimited imaginations, are able to paint or construct images of Hell capable of terrifying those generations that have heroically endured the infernal bombardments of the Carso and who are accustomed to a mechanised life more dangerous than the weak little flames one finds in the traditional ‘Inferno’.
  2. Only Futurist aeropainters – masters at rendering aerial perspectives and accustomed to painting from the skies – are able to express in plastic terms the abyssal charm and heavenly transparencies of infinity. Indeed, this is not attainable for traditional painters, all of whom are more or less bound to an obsessive, inescapably terrestrial realism and therefore incapable of rising to the heights of mystical abstraction.
  3. Only Futurist aeropainters are able to make the multiform and swift, aerial life of angels and saints sing on canvas.
  4. Only Futurist artists – anxious for originality at all costs and hating, on principle, that which has already been seen – are able to endow the painting, fresco or plastic complex with the power of magical surprise necessary for expressing the miraculous.
  5. Only Futurist artists, who for twenty years have addressed the complex matter of simultaneity, are able to express clearly, with suitable interpenetrations of time and space, the simultaneous dogmas of the Catholic faith, such as the Holy Trinity, the Immaculate Conception and Christ’s Calvary.
  6. Only Futurist artists, fired by optimism, colour and imagination, such as Balla, Belli, Benedetta, Caviglioni, Cocchia, Corona, Depero, Diulgheroff, Dottori, Duse, Fillia, Pepe Diaz, Lepore, Marasco, Munari, Pozzo, Prampolini, Rosso, Tato, Thayaht, etc., are able today to define in a work of sacred art the bliss of Paradise, which surpasses Catholic soldiers’ heavenly joy at our great victory of Vittorio Veneto.

Examples

Only Futurism – the urgent and swift artistic ‘beyond’ – is able to picture and shape all that lies beyond life itself.

Examples of Futurist sacred art:

Gerardo Dottori’s Crucifixion is distinguished by the charming fluidity of the figures of the weeping women at the foot of the Cross. These seem to be the dolorous extensions of Christ’s own body, illuminated by an otherworldly light that constitutes the dominant feature of the work.

Fillia’s Nativity-Death-Eternity depicts the Madonna seated in the foreground of a landscape rendered unreal by the presence of a large dematerialised Cross – that is, one formed of the purest sky – which glows through the fluid body of the Madonna with a soft, submarine phosphorescence. This image is enclosed within the sphere of the world, on the surface of which are gathered together representations of churches down the ages: from the vaults of the catacombs to buildings of Roman, Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and, finally, Futurist design. The figure of the Madonna is animated by the radiant line defining the form of the Christ Child. This continues in the rhythm of His mother’s body, recalling the architectural qualities of the churches. The picture contains a great simultaneity of very diverse elements. It is an impressive amalgamation of the concrete and the abstract; a synthesis of the long development of Catholicism through the centuries.

Fillia’s Adoration depicts a praying Madonna, the elements of whose body have been distilled to the point at which it no longer bears human characteristics, being transformed into an abstract representation of prayer at the foot of a Cross refined from the ether.

Oriani’s Ascent to Calvary is characterised by the dramatisation of the entire environment – its evocation of sorrow, captured in a hundred different ways, dominating the grief expressed by the figure of Christ Himself.

Mino Rosso’s plastic complex The Nativity displays the absolute, plastic obedience of all the figures and objects surrounding the Christ Child, which appear as if mystically magnetised by Him.

The other works of Futurist sacred art exhibited at Padua by the Futurists Dottori, Fillia, Oriani, Pozzo, Pogoletti [sic], Rosso, Saladin, Severini and Vignazia are equally significant.

Futurist Innovation

Futurism – the movement of proud Italian innovation, firmly anti-Masonic and anticlerical – prophesised twenty years ago the advent of Fascism, has created and led artistic avant-gardes throughout the world, enlivened literature with words-in-freedom and the simultaneous style, emptied the theatre of considerations of time and psychology by means of surprising, illogical, simultaneous syntheses and the drama of objects, enriched the plastic arts with its anti-realism and plastic dynamism, invented the art of noises, the noise-harmonium and the concept of tactilism, introduced a machine aesthetic into music and initiated the movement for more dynamic forms of nutrition, endowed photography with rich creative possibilities, inspired the marvellous Aeropainting of tomorrow and launched the new architecture of iron, cement, agility and colour, cleansed of decoration and rich in a stark geometric splendour that Antonio Sant’Elia has bequeathed to the Italian Rationalists – who are now forced to acknowledge its Italian origin if they do not wish to be passed off as imitators of Sant’Elia’s own northern European plagiarists.

And now, twenty of the hundred best painters belonging to the Italian Futurist movement are to present a room of Futurist sacred art at the great exhibition in Padua.

A tireless movement for the renovation, acceleration, beautification and intensification of the world, Futurism intervenes everywhere – whether expectedly or unexpectedly – as a simple demonstration of its typically Italian and Fascist strength.

This manifesto, conceived and written in collaboration with the Futurist painter Fillia, is in perfect agreement with the creative activity of Enrico Prampolini, which shines today in the front lines of the avant-garde at the exhibition of the 1940 Group in Paris, and with that of Fortunato Depero, currently preparing his great New York Exhibition of Dynamisms.

F. T. Marinetti

Gazzetta del Popolo, 23 June 1931

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3 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    “…firmly anti-Masonic and anticlerical…”

    Hmmm, doesn’t he mean “firmly anti-Masonic and NOT anticlerical”?

  2. Jon says:

    I think he does mean ‘anticlerical.’ If I read this correctly, he’s referring to the formative ideals of Futurism back in 1909 when it was founded, and they were definitely anticlerical. I think Marinetti and Fillia aware that – if they were going to make a play for Sacred Art – they’d need to explain themselves, since they’d spent about twenty-five years demanding the destruction of institutions like the Catholic Church. It was only after Mussolini’s Concordat with the Church that they made their about-face.

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