Carlo Carrá

By Sarah Thornton

            Carlo Carrá was a fundamental part of the Futurist movement in Italy during the time leading up to the First World War and throughout the war itself. The artists of the Futurist movement believed in changing the way art was created and they wanted to completely replace the artistic forms of the past. The Futurist Manifesto, written by F.T. Marinetti in 1909, was the first piece of artwork that would speak for the movement to follow. The writing was characteristic of what Futurist artwork would come to be like because it was chaotic, brash, and unlike anything that came before it. The manifesto tells the story of Marinetti driving a car into a ditch which represents the new direction that the Futurists wanted to direct Italy towards. The language of the Futurist Manifesto was very political and foreshadowed the art that the Futurists would create especially Carrá’s political paintings. Carrá and his fellow Futurists, according to Marinetti, “will glorify war-the world’s only hygiene- militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, the beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman.”[1] The idea of war being hygienic for a country was very revolutionary and nationalistic, yet also very gruesome and unorthodox. The Futurists did not know the lasting effects that the First World War would have on everyone involved and the generations to come.

Carrá used the collage technique in his paintings to create a sense of innovation, movement, and patriotism. The collage technique added speed and a dynamic quality to his painting through the mash-up of various textures. In his collage from 1914, Pursuit, Carrá created a “total painting” which was a unique sensory experience that jumped off of the canvas through the various layers that he used.[2] The different letterings of the newspaper headings in Pursuit help illustrate that Carrá has joined together multiple newspapers from Italy. The painting was finished in 1914 which was the year that the war broke out in Europe and so the horse and jockey represent leading Italy into a new direction on the world’s stage. Also, in his non-collage paintings, Carrá utilized crazed brush strokes with intense, indirect lines to help create the same speed.

Carlo Carrá believed, along with the other Futurist artists, Italy could be the greatest nation if the country were put to the challenge in a large scale war. Carrá worked to glorify war and revolution for Italy in his paintings. Through his artwork, he wanted to put the viewer directly in the middle of the revolution. War and violence were two major motives of the Futurist movement because the artists saw both of these as positive aspects of society. The belief that war is hygienic goes along with a survival of the fittest style of thinking. They believe that only the strongest will survive a war and they will pass on the best traits to the next generations of Italians. Their country would become great if only the ones that deserved to survive would survive a war. The Futurists yearned for a war that would give Italy a chance to shine on the world’s stage as a society. Carrá believed in one true leader and the masses that would be followers and he said, “The crowd, the plebes, will never understand the superior man. We’ll leave the masses their silly leaders. We have always insulted the crowd.”[3] Carrá, believed that the Futurist artists were the superior men in the art world when he said, “this new art, barely glimpsed by them, will be realized by US for our own pleasure and for the pleasure of a few like-minded people who find themselves capable of enjoying it.”[4] The superiority complex of the Futurist artists had been implied from the Manifesto because they believed that their new form of art would completely change the world and be the most relevant to society. The Futurists wanted a society that did not look to the past for guidance on how to run their country, but instead looked to the future for how Italy would run as a nation and strive in a competition of ideals and policies. The superiority complex of the Futurists places so much pressure on their artwork to be the best artwork because they are not dependent on any artwork that came before them.

Carrá’s artwork had blatant political themes and one example of his use of collage to illustrate politics in Italy at the time is his Patriotic Festival from 1914. The collage is a collection of newspaper headlines that make a circular collage. The collage is broken up with diagonal strips of headlines that break up the circular movement of the collage. The art critic, Oliver Shell, wrote about this painting, “The volatility and cacophony of modern life- as signified by the bits of collage text and onomatopoeic effects- are affirmed within this all-embracing, dynamic, but hierarchical structure.”[5] The effects really are onomatopoeic-they force the viewer to notice all of the headlines and the words jump off of the page. The words come to life in the collage. Modern life, as demonstrated by Carrá, is not straightforward and life is interrupted by constant stimulation of news and nationalistic propaganda. The radial collage style is compared to, “the whirring blade of a propeller,” which can be related to a new form of technology at the time.[6] The new technology in Italy was celebrated greatly by the Futurists because it meant that Italy was moving towards a new place on the world’s stage. The speed of a propeller was exactly what the Futurists wanted to illustrate in their artwork. The artwork would be something new, innovative, and moving in a new direction.

In Carlo Carrá’s painting, The Funeral of the Anarchist Galli from 1910, Carrá shows violence breaking out at the funeral procession of Galli, the anarchist. Boccioni says the lines used by Carrá in the painting are called, “force lines,” and it can be interpreted that the lines have, “a psychological effect on the viewer, so that he or she is ‘obliged to struggle himself with the personages in the picture.”[7] Carrá put the viewer in the middle of the violence surrounding the funeral procession which manipulates the senses of the viewer and make the viewer feel a personal quality towards the painting. The viewer feels the struggle that the rebels felt while struggling against a strong Fascist government.

Carlo Carrá was key part of the Futurist movement and his artwork reflected many of the themes that the Futurists wanted to get across in their artwork in the early twentieth century. He wanted to create art for a new Italy and the great Italian people. Nationalistic themes are present throughout his artwork, especially in his collages because they feature newspaper clippings from Italian newspapers. His artwork had major political messages to overthrow the current government and make Italy great again. He created dynamic collages to illustrate the importance of violence and promote the idea of Italian nationalism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Antliff, Mark, “The Fourth Dimension and Futurism: A Politicized Space,” The Art Bulletin Vol.

82 No. 4 (Dec. 2000); 720-733. Accessed February 1, 2012. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3051419.

Apollonio, Umbro. The Futurist Manifestos. London: Thames and Hudson, 1973.

Poggi, Christine. Inventing Futurism: The Art and Politics of Artificial Optimism. Princeton:

Princeton University Press, 2009.

 


[1] F. T. Marinetti, “The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism 1909,” in The Documents of 20th-Century Art: Futurist Manifestos, ed. Umbro Apollonio (New York, The Viking Press, 1970), 22.

[2] Carlo Carrá, “The Painting of Sounds, Noises, and Smells 1913,” in The Documents of 20th-Century Art: Futurist Manifestos, ed. Umbro Apollonio (New York, The Viking Press, 1970), 115.

[3] Christine Poggi, Inventing Futurism: The Art and Politics of Artificial Optimism (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2009), 53.

[4] Carlo Carrá, “Warpainting (extracts) 1915,” in The Documents of 20th-Century Art: Futurist Manifestos, ed. Umbro Apollonio (New York, The Viking Press, 1970), 205.

[5] Christine Poggi, Inventing Futurism: The Art and Politics of Artificial Optimism (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2009), 52.

[6] Ibid, 53.

[7] Mark Antliff, “The Fourth Dimension and Futurism: A Politicized Space,” in The Art Bulletin 82 No. 4, (Dec. 2000), 730, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3051419.

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