Futurism is an art style that originated in Italy during the early twentieth century. It is typically described as an homage to the technological and industrial development of the time. It is important to understand the term Industrial Revolution – the scientific advances that occurred during the third quarter of the 19th century, allowing for the invention of the radio, telephone, and automobile. Italian futurism emphasizes the obsession with designs of new machinery, namely “trains, streetcars, automobiles, ocean liners, and later, airplanes” (Mather, 2020, p. 1). Futurism is often used similarly to the term Machine Aesthetic, meaning the glorification of simple machinery or its parts, such as cogs, engines, steam pipes, and more. The machines in question were symbols of faith in future industrial progress. That progress promised many benefits to a society disenfranchised by the first world war. Hopelessness and despair from the economic crisis had changed the optimistic attitudes of the people, especially in countries such as Italy and Germany. In this context, it is evident how easily the technological promises helped restore the public faith in the future and provide them with the hope of a future utopia.
Futurism also promotes the ideology of blind faith in the industrial process. According to Mather (2020), its focus on loud and bright machinery and roaring engines was used to promote it. It attracted a large audience of hopeless people and forged a group identity around this ideology. The pieces of work were eye-catching and interesting to look at, such as Elasticity by Umberto Boccioni, located at Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan. Another example of the bright paintings of futurism is the Rhythm of Objects by Carlo Carra. The paintings are dynamic and moving, signifying the rapid progress of technological improvement and the endless possibilities that occur from it. The future held potential for both failure and promise but always allowed for exhilarating possibilities in terms of art and economics.
The ideology of progress was closely tied to political movements in Italy that eventually went from aggressive speeches amassing audiences to the development of the authoritarian aspect and character of fascism. According to Mather (2020), the pioneer of futuristic speech, Marinetti, joined forces to form a political party with Benito Mussolini. It was made possible through the economic implications that technological progress promoted by futurism spawned. More problematic aspects of futurism were later revealed through rapid technological progress that led to the state of the environment that is seen today. Progress for the sake of progress was highly promoted, which made people comfortable with consuming the good of labor without any concern on the carbon imprint of such means.
Fauvism is a French style of painting that emerged in the early nineteenth century. It derives from Modernism – a term that describes the alignment of societys values with modern industrial life. The main stylistic features that set it apart from other art movements were the highly aggressive brush strokes and bright colors that painted the canvas. It created a vibrant piece of work and showed scenes that, due to the unnatural colors, seemed out of this world. According to Temprey (2018), Fauves, the artists working in this style of painting, admired van Gogh and heavily drew inspiration from his art. The abrupt brush strokes further gave off the appearance of clumsiness and spontaneousness. They became a staple of Fauvism and gave the style its name. Fauves means wild animals or beasts in French, signifying the wild strokes and vibrant coloring of the canvas (Temprey, 2018). Complementary colors were chosen as highlights for an impactful viewing experience. Young artists started to imitate the style more and more, but the movement did not form until 1908.
The Fauves drew inspiration from nature and ordinary life, which means that their unique way of coloring and brush strokes brought out new emotions from an otherwise common scene. Temprey (2018) writes: “fauvist painting shocked visitors” of their first exhibition in 1905 at the annual Salon dAutomne in Paris. A famous art critic described the painters as “wild beasts,” or les Fauves; such is the origin story of the style’s name. Henry Matisse, an influential member of the Fauves, critiqued the modern three-dimensional painting style of his peers and sought to find a style that helped him express emotions through color. His work, Woman with a hat, composed of very few brush strokes on a plain white canvas, deeply struck viewers. However, the reaction of critics at the time was not favorable.
Andre Derain is a Fauve that is claimed to be one of the originators of the style. One of his most famous pieces, Fishing Boats, Collioure, is an excellent example of fauvism (Derain, 1905). The canvas is painted with bright colors that accentuate the vibrancy of the scene. The brush strokes are wild and unmixed, in contrast to styles such as Realism or Bouguereau, where the paint is mixed to create a gradient. The sharp lines of paint are a signature of Fauvism used to express emotions, such as passion or aggression.
Derain, A. (1905). Fishing Boats, Collioure [painting]. Met Museum. New York, NY, United States of America. Web.
Mather, S. D. (2020). Futurist Conditions: Imagining Time in Italian Futurism. Bloomsbury Visual Arts.
Temprey, S. (2018). Inside Matisse: Understanding Henri Matisse. Unpipe.