balla, swifts paths of movement, 1913

Giacoma Balla painted Paths of Movement + Dynamic Sequences in Italy in 1913 . Balla was a key artist in the Futurist movement, which was happening in Italy at the time. The Futurist movement was started to get the Italian people to revolutionize everything from culture to art, to how they dressed.  Balla believed, that because everything was always in motion, that paintings, and art in general should depict movement.  The idea that a painting could move went along with the ideals of the Futurist movement.

In general, Balla was very interested in how he could depict the movement of the subject of his paintings. He viewed his art as a mathematical study of movement. In one of his letters Balla wrote that motion was “the necessary starting point for the discovery of the lines of abstract speed.”[1] In his study of motion he was especially fascinated with the movement of swallows.

Paths of Movement + Dynamic Sequences was painted with oil on canvas.  This particular painting is one of almost 20 studies that Balla did using swallows as his subject material.  Balla was very interested in depicting the mechanics of swallows in flight.[2] The series of paintings get more detailed as his study progresses. This painting shows “a well-balanced synthesis of light and motion, space and state of mind, objectivity and subjectivity, elaborated to the point of abstraction.”[3]  Balla starts with a very clear subject, that of swallows flying past a window, and then he creates movement using different painting techniques to make the work abstract.

This painting depicts a flock of sparrows as they move past a window.  The image is abstract but there are several key features that show what the image is of.  While the birds are blurred together, their wings clearly identify them as birds.  The wings of each sparrow is shown at three different points in time as they move back and forth.  Balla pained the wing in the middle the darkest; because he was trying to show that as the wings move back and forth they spend the most time in the middle. Balla felt that the lines in his painting “represented in synthetic form his spirit moving along the terrace in unison with the swallows as he observed their flight.”[4]         Balla’s study of motion in this painting shows the ideals of the Futurist movement and also how Balla viewed art.  This painting shows that Balla wanted a painting that showed how things move.  The different technique that he uses shows his dedication to making a painting move.


[1] Paolo Baldacci;  Top of Form

Maurizio Fagiolo dell’Arco. Giacomo Balla: abstract futurism. (London:  Finarte. 1995), 18

[2] Baldacci pg 21

[3] Baladicci Pg. 22

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