The light & movement. Futurism of Giacomo Balla

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Giacomo Balla was born in 1871, in the family of an Italian photographer. The development of photography largely shaped up his artistic taste and style. His works included the first experiments of a depiction of the movement in a static picture.

Already in the first well-known works of Giacomo Balla, before the exploration of futurism, you can see the influence of the photography. For example, the portrait of the Italian painter Ettore Roesler Franz is easy to imagine as photography is taken using the modern-day smartphone. The composition, realism in the depiction of light and even small lines that look like the scratches from the bad quality film – it all suggests that Balla was enthusiastic about the photo art.

After meeting one of the leaders of futurism Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Giacomo started an in-depth study of the movement of objects. The first success in the depiction of the movement in photography was achieved by the Englishman Eadweard Muybridge in the 1870s. He made a series of photos of a running horse with the help of the chronophotographic technique. Balla took the successful experiments of Muybridge to his paintings – in 1912, he created Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash, The Hand of the Violinist and Girl Running on a Balcony.

If in these works, it is possible to understand who are the heroes, then in the following years, Balla fully went into the abstract. The best example of the artist’s interests is portrayed in the name of his painting – Abstract Speed + Sound (1913–14).

Giacomo Balla continued to preserve his experimental style in the post-war years. He tried himself in the sculpture and even the ballet, where he created a typewriter on the scene from the depersonalized actors-robots. Balla died on 1 March 1958 in Rome, at the age of 86.

Examples of Balla’s works

From the top left: Villa Borghese da Villa Ambron (1929), Street Light (1909), Line of speed (1913), Iridescent Interpenetration No.5 – Eucalyptus (1914), Girl running on a Balcony (1912), Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (1912)

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