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Italian school of painting, sculpture, and literature that flourished from 1909, when Filippo Tommaso MarinettiMarinetti, Filippo Tommaso
, 1876–1944, Italian poet, novelist, and critic. He is best known as the founder of futurism (1909), on which he wrote and lectured, and as an advocate of Fascism; he was one of the first members of the Fascist party.
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's first manifesto of futurism appeared, until the end of World War I. Carlo CarràCarrà, Carlo
, 1881–1966, Italian painter. Trained as a decorator, he became associated with the artists involved in the development of futurism. His The Funeral of the Anarchist Galli (1911; Mus.
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, Gino SeveriniSeverini, Gino
, 1883–1966, Italian painter. In 1906 he settled in Paris. First associated with the cubist painters, he later became a principal figure in the movement known as futurism. Severini was greatly influenced by Seurat and theories of neoimpressionism.
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, and Giacomo BallaBalla, Giacomo,
1871–1958, Italian painter, one of the founders of futurism. He moved from Turin to Rome in his twenties and began painting in a realist style. He travelled (1900) to Paris, where he was influenced by neoimpressionism and particularly by divisionism (or
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 were the leading painters and Umberto BoccioniBoccioni, Umberto
, 1882–1916, Italian futurist painter and sculptor. He played a primary role in the drafting of the manifesto of futurism in 1910 and was the major figure in the movement until 1914. In his famous, characteristic painting, The City Rises (1910; Mus.
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 the chief sculptor of the group. The architect Antonio Sant' EliaSant' Elia, Antonio
, 1888–1916, Italian architect. Associated with the movement known as futurism, he created visionary drawings of futurist houses that he likened to gigantic machines. His projects for urban complexes suggest the functional architecture of the 1920s.
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 also belonged to this school. The futurists strove to portray the dynamic character of 20th-century life; their works glorified danger, war, and the machine age, attacked academies, museums, and other establishment bastions, and, in theory at least, favored the growth of Italian fascism. The group had a major Paris exhibition in 1912 that showed the relationship of their work to cubismcubism,
art movement, primarily in painting, originating in Paris c.1907. Cubist Theory

Cubism began as an intellectual revolt against the artistic expression of previous eras.
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. Their approach to the rendering of movement by simultaneously representing several aspects of forms in motion influenced many painters, including DuchampDuchamp, Marcel
, 1887–1968, French painter, brother of Raymond Duchamp-Villon and half-brother of Jacques Villon. Duchamp is noted for his cubist-futurist painting Nude Descending a Staircase,
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 and DelaunayDelaunay, Robert
, 1885–1941, French painter; husband of Sonia Delaunay-Terk. By 1909, Delaunay had progressed from a neoimpressionist phase to cubism, applying cubist principles to the exploration of color.
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. Futurist principles and techniques strongly influenced Russian constructivismconstructivism,
Russian art movement founded c.1913 by Vladimir Tatlin, related to the movement known as suprematism. After 1916 the brothers Naum Gabo and Antoine Pevsner gave new impetus to Tatlin's art of purely abstract (although politically intended) constructions.
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See studies by M. W. Martin (1968), J. Rye (1972), U. Apollino (1973), C. Tisdale and A. Bozollo (1985), and M. Perloff (1989); V. Greene, ed., Italian Futurism, 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe (museum catalog, 2014).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a term designating the avant-garde art movements of the 1910’s and 1920’s in Italy and Russia. While differing in their ideological orientation, which sometimes placed them in mutual opposition, Italian and Russian futurism were drawn together by certain aesthetic declarations and partly by the range of their motifs; likewise, a number of common traits point to the kinship between futurism and avant-garde currents in Germany, France, Great Britain, Austria, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. In Russia the term “futurism” soon came to stand for the entire “left front” in art, becoming a synonym for avant-gardism in general.

In Italy the birth of futurism was marked by the Manifesto of Futurism, published in 1909 in the Parisian newspaper Le Figaro; the author, F. T. Marinetti, was the movement’s leader and theoretician. The journal Lacerba, a vehicle for futurist ideas, was published in Florence by G. Papini from 1913 to 1915; the futurist point of view was shared by the poets G. P. Lucini, P. Buzzi, A. Palazzeschi, and C. Govoni, the composer B. Pratella, the artists U. Boccioni, C. Carrà, G. Baila, G. Severini, and L. Russolo, and the architects A. Sant’Elia and M. Chiattone.

Like the other avant-gardist currents, futurism represented a subjectively anarchic reaction to the crisis of bourgeois culture, to decadence, and to the bankruptcy of the illusory liberal ethics of the 19th century; it expressed an elemental emotional presentiment of the breakup of society and culture and the coming of a new historical epoch—an age of scientific and technological progress, growing utilitarianism of thought, and mass culture. Unlike those who professed horror in the face of the “Moloch” of civilization, the futurists accepted the future unreservedly, with exalted optimism, and with faith in technology as the first cause of modern social and cultural progress, proclaiming the artistic value of the outward material signs of the coming industrial age.

Futurism combined its apologia of technology and urbanism with the cult of the superman—a heroic figure invading the world and shattering the “decrepit” foundations of art and morality—and with the cult of violence, or the thrill of such social cataclysms as war (to “cleanse” the world) and “revolt” in general. Rejecting the heritage of art and culture, the futurists espoused the principles of artistic eccentricity, mocking traditional tastes and welcoming the shocking effect of antiaestheticism in art. Intimate feelings and ideal concepts of love, goodness, and happiness were declared to be human weaknesses; emotions and sensations were evaluated in terms of the measurable attributes of machines—strength, energy, motion, and speed.

The futurists called on artists to create full-scale and concentrated models of modern life (hence their advocacy of art as an indivisible synthesis); modern existence was regarded by them as merely “the life of matter,” or the dynamic complex of unprecedented psychic and physiological vibrations, diverging forces and movements, and acoustic and visual effects. The futurists’ chaotic recording of jostling impressions, abstracted of spiritual values, and their mechanical and arbitrary matching of diverse forms led to irrationality and the disintegration of the traditional system of imagery.

The principles of futurist poetry were the communication of sensations as a chain of free associations and analogies (“wireless imagination”) and the accentuation of the acoustic and graphic textual “coverings” at the expense of verbal meanings, including extensive use of onomatopoeia and alliteration, pattern poems (also called figure, or shaped, poems), collages, drawings, and various combinations of hand-lettered and typographic characters and mathematical symbols.

Futurist painting, while somewhat akin to French cubism in its methods, differed from it in subject matter and in its underlying literary principles. The artist was called on to express the dynamics of the universe—to render movement in painting by the incorporation of different points of view, the multiple repetition of images, the deformation and breakdown of contours along intersecting “force” lines and planes, the use of sharply contrasting colors, and the composition of collages that included word fragments seemingly plucked at random from the stream of life. In sculpture—in the work of Boccioni, for example—the illusion of movement was to be evoked by the agglomeration and unidirectional flow of “streamlined” or angular masses. Futurist concepts were incorporated in architecture in the form of imaginative designs for “cities of the future.”

The rigid mechanicism of futurist aesthetics and the political activism of Marinetti and his followers, with their militaristic and chauvinist propaganda, led to a split in the movement between 1913 and 1915. In the 1920’s some of the futurists became apologists of the fascist regime, which they saw as fulfilling the dream of Italy’s future greatness, while others completely renounced the principles of futurism altogether.

In Russia the futurist movement, clearly expressed in literature, represented the complex interaction of different groupings. The most typical as well as most radical of these was the Gileia in St. Petersburg—a group that included D. D. Burliuk, V. V. Khlebnikov, Elena Guro, V. V. Mayakovsky, V. V. Kamenskii, A. E. Kruchenykh, and B. K. Livshits; its first publications were the collections The Judges’ Trap (1910) and A Slap in the Face of Public Taste (1913). I. Severianin and K. K. Olimpov were members of St. Petersburg’s Association of Ego-futurists, whose first publication was Severianin’s Prologue to Ego-futurism (1911). In Moscow, the futurists were grouped in two transitional associations—the Mezzanine of Poetry, which included V. G. Shershenevich, R. Ivnev, and B. A. Lavrenev, and the Centrifuge, including S. P. Bobrov, I. A. Aksenov, B. L. Pasternak, and N. N. Aseev. Futurist groups were also formed in Odessa, Kharkov, Kiev, and Tbilisi; M. V. Semenko was one of the Kiev futurists.

The literature of futurism was associated with the “left” currents in the fine arts; in particular, the Gileia’s members were in close contact with M. F. Larionov’s group, called The Donkey’s Tail, and with the Union of Youth in St. Petersburg. The similarity of ideological and aesthetic views among the poets and artists of this new wave, their overlapping creative interests (as reflected in the poets’ use of art and the artists’ use of poetry) and their frequent joint appearances caused the term “futurism” to be attached to the “left” trends in painting. A series of exhibitions, in fact, were organized under the banner of futurism, including “Target” in 1913, “No. 4” in 1914, and “Tramway B” and “0, 10” in 1915. Nevertheless, futurist Russian art was not a reflection either of Italian futurism (with the exception of individual works by K. S. Malevich, Larionov, N. S. Goncharova, O. V. Rozanova, P. N. Filonov, and A. V. Lentulov) or of any other integral system; rather, it embraced a general concept as manifested in a broad range of phenomena, including the post-Cézan-nism of the Jack of Diamonds group, the national version of cubism as expressed in decorative art, and the variety of artistic experimentation tending either toward German expressionism and French fauvism or in the direction of primitivism, abstractionism, and dadaism.

The period between the two revolutions was one of increasingly democratic attitudes and simultaneous spiritual disorder among the intelligentsia; developing at this time, Russian futurism was a mixture of contradictory elements—combining, on the one hand, a spontaneous reaction against bourgeois reality and a protest against the suppression of the individual by machine civilization and, on the other, anarchic revolt for the sake of revolt and nihilistic rejection of all the cultural and moral values of the “old world.” The futurists’ demand for the democratization of art and their disdain for the art of the “elite” was joined to extreme individualism and the proclamation of absolute creative autonomy. These contradictory aspects of Russian futurism were also reflected in its practical manifestations. The Russian futurists’ program, which they planned to extend to the most recently developed areas of human experience, included visionary urbanistic projects, poetic presentiments on a global scale, militant and shocking antiaestheticism, and exhibitionist attacks against artistic traditions; at the same time, however, it paid tribute to past culture and history, folklore, archaisms, intimism, and the pure lyricism of feelings.

While they regarded themselves as belonging to the same “species” as the Italian futurists, whose name they assumed, the Russian futurists were acutely sensitive of the contrast between their own aspirations and those of their Italian counterparts. The Gileia’s members, in particular, who also called themselves budetliane (from the future tense of the verb “to be”), emphasized the unique sources of Russian futurism; in Khlebnikov’s words, “There was no need for us to be implanted from without—our plunge into the future goes back to 1905.” Some of the Russian futurists demonstrated their independence through their organized opposition to Marinetti when he visited Russia in 1914.

The Gileia poets—the leading group of Russian futurists— identified words in poetry with things; words were regarded by them as symbols of self-contained physical givenness, or as material capable of being transformed at will and capable of interacting with any other symbolic system or structure in nature as well as in art. Poetry was thus seen as providing the universal “material” means to comprehend the foundations of being and the basis of transforming reality.

The major criterion that the Gileia poets applied to a poetic text was its inaccessibility; their poetic constructions followed the logic of the plastic arts, and especially of the newest trends in painting, such as cubism (from which they took the name “cubo-ïuturists”). These poets strove for semantic “compactness” and the clashing interaction of associative processes; using the elements of poetic speech, they sought to express such purely plastic concepts as “flatness,” “texture,” and “displacement.” This led to the search for the “self-creating word”—the search for verbal forms bordering on abstraction; it led to the use of onomatopoeia (which would convey the qualities of the visible world by acoustic means alone), to an abundance of poetic neologisms, and to disregard of the rules of grammar—in short, to zaum’, or trans-sense language. The visual aspect of verbal symbols was drawn into the context of poetic meanings, as in the case of pattern poems, combined graphic and verbal compositions, and lithographs.

As a result of the futurists’ programmatic orientation, with its stress on contemporary life and antiaesthetic reality and its identification of words with facts, the fabric of their poetry was woven out of such elements as vulgarisms, the prosaic speech of urban life, professional jargon, and the language of official documents, posters, placards, the circus, and cinematography—in other words, elements previously regarded as alien to poetry. The cubo-futurists immersed themselves in the facts and material tokens of the modern world, denying the supremacy of the word as the ideal symbol of meaning amassed by cultural tradition and subordinating the comprehension of phenomena to the formal restructuring of poetry. Thus cubo-futurism could merely record, albeit perceptively, the external signs of the impending historical crisis, itself remaining only an echo of the social upheavals of the time.

The diversity that marked the various ramifications of futurism in the 1910’s was accompanied by an additional stratification within individual groupings. Within the Gileia group, for example, the social spirit of Mayakovsky (not coincidentally singled out by M. Gorky) stood in contrast to Kruchenykh’s locked-in world of verbal abstractions; eventually only Severianin, who modified the affectedly exotic motifs of his early poems (or poezy, as he called them), remained as the sole representative of ego-futurism.

It was after October 1917 that Russian futurism clearly manifested its political stance, already mapped out by Mayakovsky, Khlebnikov, and Aseev in their antimilitary declarations during World War I.

Most of the futurists subscribed to the establishment of Soviet power and actively participated in its early work of political agitation, Mayakovsky being the outstanding example. On the other hand, the claims advanced by some of the futurists on behalf of a “state art” and the nihilistic attitude toward the culture of the past—an attitude that had grown more intense during the period of revolution—were condemned in the letter of the Central Committee of the RCP(B) “On the Proletkul’t organizations,” published in 1920, and in V. I. Lenin’s notes to A. V. Lunacharskii and M. N. Pokrovskii concerning the publication of Mayakov-sky’s poem “150,000,000.” Many of the poets who had previously belonged to futurist groups joined together in the Left Front of the Arts, or LEF. Certain futurist tendencies were adopted in the 1920’s by the imaginists and the oberiuty (members of the Association of Real Art, or Oberiu). Some prominent poets who started out as futurists—Mayakovsky, Aseev, and particularly Pasternak—turned away from the movement during the 1920’s.


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E. IU. SAPRYKINA (futurism in Italian literature) and V. A. MARKOV

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


an artistic movement that arose in Italy in 1909 to replace traditional aesthetic values with the characteristics of the machine age
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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