Giacomo Balla (1871-1958)

A leading founder of Futurism and Futuristic painting, Giacomo Balla would become one of the most famous artists of this movement along with Umberto Boccioni and Carlo Carra.

Flight of the Swallows, 1913

Born in Turin, Italy, Balla was originally trained in music as a child. Although he attended the Academia Albertina di Belle Arti for a brief period, he was a primarily self-taught artist. In his earliest works, Balla studied Georges Seurat’s style of Pointillism and incorporated this style into his pre-Futuristic compositions.

A Child Runs Along a Balcony, 1912

Balla also studied at the University of Turin, and later moved to Rome in 1885 where he lived for several years as an illustrator, caricaturist and even as a portrait painter.

Around 1910, Balla and his fellow Futurists began painting things in motion, which was symbolic of their commitment to moving forward in the 20th century. One of his most famous paintings, “Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash” (1912) is a perfect example of Balla’s illustration of speed.

Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash, 1912

Along with his fellow Futurists, Balla signed the Futurist Painting Manifesto this same year, although they did not exhibit as a group until 1913.

Many of Balla’s earliest works were in celebration of machinery; planes, trains and automobiles.

Balla painting, Speed of a Motorcycle, 1913

Their motion was captured on his canvas, which eventually led him to his second wave of Futurism which was dominated by geometric shapes.

Streamlines Future, 1916

These geometric/Futuristic paintings were done primarily in the early 1920s and were again figurative representations of the 20th century.

Form-Spirit Transformation, 1918

Towards the end of the 1920s, Balla had moved farther away from Futuristic painting, but still painted in a figurative style throughout the rest of his career. Perhaps this is because at the time, Futurism had become associated with fascism in the public eye. For the rest of his career, Balla remained an abstract artist.

Speed + Sound, 1913-1914

While Balla’s Futuristic paintings are very well known, lesser known are his portrait paintings in his early days as an artist. Even lesser known are his sculptures which he experimented with in 1914. Made of cardboard and wood, “Boccioni’s Fist” is perhaps his most famous sculpture and is housed at the Hirschorn Museum in Washington D.C.

Boccioni’s Fist Sculpture, 1915

These sculptures also celebrated sound, motion and light and were primarily done in a Futuristic style.

Plastico Construction of Noise and Speed, 1915 Polymer Construction

Interestingly, Balla even tried his hand at designing Futuristic furniture and clothing, and set design. Balla was so involved with the Futuristic lifestyle that he even named his two daughters after Futuristic elements; Propeller and Light.

Numeri Innamorati 1924-1925

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