The City Rises
There are many things in life that are often hard to communicate to others. Ideas, concepts, they have a tendency to float on the border of interpretation and confusion. Art has a way to remove the confusion and bring forth interpretations that astound the mind. It is the purest form of expression, a celebration.
Umberto Boccioni's The City Rises is a 1910 painting featuring the freedom and passion of artistic expression and was the highlight of my trip while visiting the Museum of Modern Art. Being the first of the artist's first major Futurist work, its rich color and vibrant detail contrasted the whiteness of certain spaces and its almost ghost-like qualities. It truly is one of the most notable of Boccioni's work and triumphant. This assignment for me is a way to organize my thought and express what has I'm sure touched the hearts of anyone who has seen the piece as well as provide some information on the artist who created The City Rises.
I chose the Museum of Modern Art or MOMA for short. The reason behind this selection is the variety of artwork there. I wanted to be able to choose something that elements in it that are not seen in most artwork and I figured here would be a great place to look. Furthermore, there was something about MOMA that made me feel like it would better suit my style than other museums. Overall, I chose MOMA because I knew there would be the kind of selection I wanted to see for my assignment.
I have been to museums in the past. One of my favorite was the Museum of Natural History due to its geology section. I liked looking at the minerals from time to time and enjoyed seeing how many varieties of minerals the earth had. I also enjoyed seeing other aspects of history including the various stages of humanity and the progress humanity has made thus far. Just like MOMA, the American Museum of Natural History had a multitude of things to keep one from being bored while venturing deeper into the museum.
The artist who painted The City Rises was born in Reggio Calabria, Italy on October 19, 1882. Tragically he died young at the age of 33 in Verona, Italy. He was Italian and helped in shaping the revolutionary aesthetic of the Futurism movement due to him being one if its main and noteworthy figures. He was well-known for the deconstruction of solid mass and dynamism of form.
The title of the selected work is The City Rises and it is an oil on canvas, painted in 1910, roughly six years before the artist's death. I chose this artwork specifically because the colors really inspired me. The use of white space also was beautiful as it served to create the outline of shapes while also erasing the solid feel to shapes, creating an almost apparition-like aesthetic. The title itself was the first thing to draw me in. The image looked like it was rising, like an ethereal ghost lifting everything from the scene.
My impression of this piece of chaos. People looks hysterical, along with the horse. The horses were the first thing I could make out and then the people feeling from them in terror. The way the white lines look like light, but acting like chaos was superbly done.
One thing that I realized while there were the people standing next to me examining the piece. They looked at it at first for a split second, then looked back to try to make everything out because it lacked definition. The artwork was featured prominently so it was not hard to miss it. It was on the 5th floor in Painting and Sculpture I, in the third gallery.
One big question about the artist would have been why did he paint this painting at the time he did. His death was a tragedy having died by being trampled on a horse and it is ironic that one of his most famous paintings features people being trampled on. Did he perhaps see a vision of his own death? It seemed very eerie the manner in which he died and the main subject of the painting.
The main subject of the painting are horses, with a bright and hard to miss image of a horse in the center and people trying in vain to control them. While the main horse is red with a blue scarf on irs back, there is one horse that is white and another behind it that looks to be a demon horse, screaming in agony. Some of the scarves also, due to the way they were drawn and use of white space, look like wings with the white lines acting like rays of light, blinding the horses and the people. Being an oil painting on canvas, the brush strokes look scattered and heavy, especially on the main horse.
The main colors were a brick reddish-brown, black, blue, white, and beige. There was some green, but everything was enveloped in white, making everything seem like a fading memory. There are more horses in the far background. However, it was too hard to make out what they were doing.
In conclusion, I enjoyed going to the MOMA and examining The City Rises. It is a beautiful work of art and is both dynamic and deconstructed. My hopes for part II is to further delve into examination of art and art history. I also wish to understand artistic expression on a deeper and more profound level.
Understanding art on a deeper level requires understanding the various movements artists lived in while they constructed their artworks. The futurism movement was just starting to rise as Umberto began painting The City Rises. By analyzing the piece further and extracting the kinds of influences the artist had, it will offer a rich perspective. A perspective that is both unique and instructive.
It took Umberto Boccioni more than a year to paint the piece titled The City Rises that many recognize as the first futurist painting. Ushering in the futurism movement, this piece shares the influences of Symbolism and Neo-Impressionism even after 1909's inauguration of Futurism and its apparent initial expression in Umberto's painting. Capturing dynamism and the fondness for modern city, it brings together several elements that create tension and movement. The horses make for a memorable aspect of the painting and contribute a significant part of the dynamic experience felt throughout the scenery.
Boccioni painted buildings in the midst of construction in a suburb with chimneys placed in the upper part. However, most of the space in the painting is occupied by the horses, big and colorful and the men, small and frightened. The strokes make them appear fused together in dynamic effort. Futurism is comprised of some typical elements as showcased in The City Rises. For example, the men and the horses represent the exaltation of human work as well as the significance of the modern town, construct around modern essentials. The painting shows the building of a new city with expansions plus technology.
Being the first true example of futurism, many of the elements in the painting serve as an outline of what futurist work looks like.
Boccioni's The City Rises functions as a pictorial manifesto to visualize the utopian dream of the Futurist metropolis. Depicting the construction of an electric plant on the industrial periphery of Milan, this monumental painting stands as a kind of a pendant to the much smaller Riot in the Galleria begun at the same time (Poggi, 2009, p. 65).
Futurism began in Italy in 1909 as a way to violently reject traditional forms thus incorporating and celebrating into art the dynamism and energy of modern technology. The initiator of the movement was Filippo Marinetti and while it lasted only until 1918, had a lasting and widely influential effect, especially in Russia with notable figures such as Mayakovsky and Malevich.
Movement is at the focus of futurism and the mixing of modern with traditional in an almost fluid-like manifestation. This is because the founder, Martinetti, being a poet, wrote an inflammatory manifesto in several foreign and Italian papers creating the kind of 'movement' seen in The City Rises. Essentially a chaotic scene filled with drama. " ... most notoriously on the front page of the Parisian daily Le Figaro, he envisioned not just the creation of an avant-garde literary movement but also the cultural and political regeneration of Italy" (Poggi, 2009, p. 7). The movement in The City Rises comes from the subjects in the painting.
Boccioni's piece feature men and horses. But what are these men? These men are proletarian, engaging in a heroic struggle to dominate horses, a natural force. The streams of sunlight shine down on these men as they have this epic power struggle and dissolve corporeal boundaries. Boccioni was heavily influenced by Marinetti's manifesto, even meeting the poet early on in 1610.