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Giacomo Balla 1871 - 1958



Giacomo Balla " Lampada " Studio di luce, 1909      Giacomo Balla " Compenetrazione iridescente numero 5 " Eucaliptus 1914      Giacomo Balla " Compenetrazione iridescente numero 4 " Studio sulla luce, 1913      Giacomo Balla " Bambina che corre sul balcone " 1912      Giacomo Balla " Velocità astratta " 1913



  Italian version


Giacomo Balla " Fallimento " 1902

Giacomo Balla: The artist was born in Turin on July 18th 1871 and died in Rome on March 1st 1958.
 His father was an industrial chemist and an enthusiastic amateur photographer. Balla, who was essentially self-taught, in 1891 frequented a course for a short period at the Albertina Academy in Turin, where he made the acquaintance of Pilade Bertieri who introduced him to Pellizza da Volpedo.

 In 1895 he went to live in Rome, following the educationalist Alessandro Marcucci, brother of his future wife, Elisa. In September 1900 Balla went to Paris to visit the ”Exposition Universelle” and remained there several months working for the illustrator Sergio Macchiati. Upon his return to Italy he became an active divulger of the pointillism  technique: Severini, Boccioni and Sironi were among his followers.

 His paintings of positivist inspiration combined humanitarian themes with scientific interest, having both natural and artificial light effects.  Work is a recurring subject in his art, at times having an almost reverential implication as in the case of his triptych “The Workman’s Day” (La giornata dell’operaio)

Futurist works
 Balla was among those who signed the Manifesto of the Futurist artists and the technical Manifesto of futurist art in 1910. In spite of his adhesion to modern themes, until 1912 he continued with his pointillist style as in his painting “The Arc Lamp” (Lampada ad arco) of 1909, a work included in the catalogue of the futurist exhibition of 1912 at the Galerie Berhnheim-Jeune in Paris, although in fact it was not exhibited there. Right from the start, his interest in science, the chronophotography of Etienne Jules Marey and the photodynamic works of Anton Giulio Bragaglia induced Balla to follow a very different style and idea of futurism to that of Boccioni.

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“Abstract speed”

 His later futurist works, like “Child running on the balcony” (Bambina che corre sul balcone) and “The hands of the violinist” (Le mani del violinista) (1912) show a new direction of his search in the breaking down of the movement into further stages. The same year when engaged to decorate the house of Lowenstein, Balla went to Dusseldorf where he started a series of abstract works, the “Iridescent permeations” (Compenetrazioni iridescenti) that reduced the effect of light and speed to the hermetic purity of geometric forms. The first “Abstract Speed” (Velocità astratte) works portraying cars racing along at high speeds and swallows in flight, are dated the end of 1913.  

The theatre and futurism

 In 1914 he took part as actor and art director in theatrical performances of Francesco Cangiullo, and composed “Words at liberty” (Parole in libertà). In 1915, together with Depero he published the futurist reconstruction of the universe manifesto that augured an aesthetic futurist application to fashion, decor and all other aspects of modern life. Together they produced a series of non -figurative constructions, or plastic art, in cardboard, sheet metal, silk and other every day materials.  Between 1914 and 1915 Balla composed the interview display cycle, in which he declaimed  the futurist artists’ patriotic enthusiasm for Italy’s entry into the war. During the war years his study became the meeting place for young artists. In 1917 he designed the scenes for  Segei Diaghilev ‘s Fireworks ballet, with music by Igor Stravinski.

Decorative art

 With increasing passion, Balla dedicated himself to decorative art, and in 1920 opened his Nicolò Porpora house to exhibit the first vividly coloured setting. Between 1921 and 1922 he designed the Tic-Tac Bal – a dance hall in futurist style, and in 1925 with Depero and Prampolini he took part at the Exposition des arts dècoratifs (decorative art exhibition) in Paris. He was so struck by Rodchenko and El Lissitsk’s Russian pavilion   and “L’Esprit Nouveau” pavilion of Le Corbusier that this inspired him to create constructivist-inspired works such as “Enamoured numbers” (Numeri innamorati) in 1923, which is also close to the mechanical images of Ivo Pannaggi and Vinicio Paladini.

Critical documents

 For a short period Balla followed the second futurism of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti signing the aero-painting Manifesto in 1929 and participating at the first futurist aero-painting Exhibition in Rome in 1931. However, his style was by this time directed toward a naturalistic representation, as became evident at his personal exhibition at the Collectors and Connoisseurs Society (Società Amatori e Cultori) in Rome in 1929-30.

Absolute realism

 At the end of the ‘thirties, Balla broke away from futurism, convinced that pure art has to express absolute realism, without which it would fall into an ornamental and decorative form. In spite of a brief period of success in the ‘fifties, during which his futurist works were esteemed by the younger generation of abstract painters, the “Origin” group, who arranged an exhibition of his works in 1951, Balla’s style remained figurative until his death.



Giacomo Balla " Mercurio passa davanti al sole " 1914          Giacomo Balla " La mano del violinista " 1912          Giacomo Balla " Velocità + paesaggio " 1913          Giacomo Balla " Velocità astratta " L'auto è passata, 1913



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