balla, girl running on a balcony, 1912

A Young Girl Running on a Balcony

In 1912 Giacoma Balla painted A Young Girl Running on a Balcony.  The piece was painted in the midst of the futurist movement.  The futurists were very interested in how artwork could portray movement.  Balla, in particular, was known for experimenting with movement in his paintings. Balla’s idea behind the painting was that everything is always in motion and therefore a painting needs to depict movement.

This particular painting was painted with oil on a canvas. At first glance the painting seems to be meant to be a painting of many different colors of abstract squares.  After further examination, it becomes clear that there are group of similar colors. The color of the painting has very bright tones, which is characteristic of the futurist movement.  In the Futurist Painting: Technical Manifesto Umberto Boccioni wrote,

“Your eyes, accustomed to semi-darkness, will soon open to more radiant visions of light.  The shadows which we shall paint shall be more luminous than the highlights of our predecessors, and our pictures, next to those of the museums, will shine like blinding daylight compared with deepest night.”[1]

Balla’s painting uses bright vibrant colors that seem to shine, which would have been seen as startling before the futurist movement, but which fit right in with the ideals of futurism.

The title of the piece gives a clue as to what the subject of the painting is.  Once it becomes clear that the subject is a girl, her outline becomes apparent.  The reason the picture looks abstract is because the artist depicts the subject at multiple points in time as she is running. Balla blurs the lines between the movements of the girl.  He makes it so the girls’ movements aren’t disjointed, but are in fact one continuous fluid movement.   This painting was one of many paintings that Balla used to experiment with “physical reality and optical appearance” of movement.[2]   Balla is so detailed that you can tell how the little girl’s braid moves back and forth as she moves.  He painted each part of her body to be one specific color, for instance her dress is blue and her shoes are brown, so the viewer can easily follow the movements that the girl makes.

Giacomo Balla studied his subjects for months before he created his finished painting.  He painted A Young Girl Running on a Balcony by painting  “about ten studies which become increasingly complex until he reaches abstraction.”[3]  So he started with a normal image of a girl running and made it more and more abstract, however, it still is clear what the subject is once you look at it for a long enough period of time.  Balla viewed his paintings as “scientific and mathematical as well as artistic.” [4] This painting was important at the time, because Balla was one of the first futurist painters to experiment with movement in his paintings.


Baldacci, Paolo;  Top of Form

Maurizio Fagiolo dell’Arco. Giacomo Balla: abstract futurism. London:  Finarte. 1995

Boccioni, Umberto Futurist Painting: Technical Manifesto

Fagiolo dell’Arco, Maurizio. Balla: the futurist. New York:   Rizzoli International Publications Inc. 1988

[1] Umberto Boccioni, Futurist Painting: Technical Manifesto

[2] Paolo Baldacci;  Top of Form

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

[3] Maurizio Fagiolo dell’Arco,. Balla: the futurist. (New York: Rizzoli International Publications Inc. 1988)
[4]  Baldacci pg 64

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