11 February 2017

Carlo Carrà - Futurist artist

Painter hailed for capturing violence at anarchist's funeral

Carlo Carrà, pictured in the late 1930s
Carlo Carrà, pictured in the late 1930s
The painter Carlo Carrà, a leading figure in the Futurist movement that gained popularity in Italy in the early part of the 20th century, was born on this day in 1881 in Quargnento, a village about 11km (7 miles) from Alessandria in Piedmont.

Futurism was an avant-garde artistic, social and political movement that was launched by the poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in 1909 and attracted many painters and sculptors, designers and architects, writers, film makers and composers who wished to embrace modernity and free Italy from what they perceived as a stifling obsession with the past.

The Futurists admired the speed and technological advancement of cars and aeroplanes and the new industrial cities, all of which they saw as demonstrating the triumph of humanity over nature through invention. They were also fervent nationalists and encouraged the youth of Italy to rise up in violent revolution against the establishment.

The movement was associated with anarchism. Indeed, Carrà counted himself as an anarchist in his youth and his best known work emerged from that period, when he attended the funeral of a fellow anarchist, Angelo Galli, who was killed by police during a general strike in Milan in 1906.

Carrà's most famous work, The Funeral of the Anarchist Galli. which is housed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Carrà's most famous work, The Funeral of the Anarchist Galli,
which is housed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
As Galli's body was carried to the cemetery, violence erupted between anarchist mourners and the police. Carrà witnessed the clashes and hastened home to make sketches of what he had seen while the images were still fresh. They became the basis for his 1911 painting, The Funeral of the Anarchist Galli.

The abstract painting, which demonstrated strong Cubist influences and is seen as Carrà's masterpiece, shows Galli’s red coffin at the centre of the canvas, held precariously aloft amid a chaotic melee of figures clad in anarchist black, illuminated by light emanating both from the coffin and the sun.

In his memoirs, Carrà described the riot at the funeral, noting that the coffin, covered in red carnations, "swayed  dangerously on the shoulders of the pallbearers."

"I saw horses go mad, sticks and lances clash," he wrote. "It seemed to me that the corpse could have fallen to the ground at any moment and the horses would have trampled it."

Carrà had left home when he was only 12 in order to work as a mural decorator, the work taking him to Paris, where he became interested in contemporary French art, and to London, where he made the acquaintance of a number of exiled Italian anarchists.

Carrà (second left) in Paris in 1912 with Luigi Russolo, Filippo   Tommaso Marinetti, Umberto Boccioni and Gino Severini
Carrà (second left) in Paris in 1912 with Luigi Russolo, Filippo
  Tommaso Marinetti, Umberto Boccioni and Gino Severini
This shaped his life when he returned to Italy in 1901 and settled in Milan, where he enrolled at the Accademia di Brera and began to associate with anarchist groups. Along with Umberto Boccioni, Luigi Russolo and Giacomo Balla, in 1910 he signed the Manifesto of Futurist Painters, which emphasised a commitment to the dynamic portrayal of movement in their paintings, with particular reference to scenes of violent riot.

In the event, in the view of art experts, Carrà's Futurist phase ended around the time the First World War began, at which point his work began to move away from the influence of an angry political ideology towards stillness and calm and from motion towards clearer form, influenced among other factors by his fascination with the work of the French post-impressionist Henri Rousseau.

In 1917 he moved into another phase after meeting the surrealist Giorgio de Chirico in Ferrara. Carrà began to include mannequin-like figures in his paintings and the two between them invented the Scuola Metafisica - the metaphysical school, the idea of which was to stress a dislocation between the present and the past, illustrated perhaps by classical figures shown against contemporary backgrounds.

Within a couple of years, Carrà had begun to depart from that phase, his work The Daughters of Lot, painted in 1919, showing the influence of the genius of the early Renaissance, Giotto, who is acknowledged as the first painter to capture true human emotions.

Carrà's political views also changed. He became more opposed to the social reform he supported as a younger man, becoming ultra-nationalist. He found the ideals of Fascism coincided increasingly with his own.

The Basilica of San Dalmazio in Carra's home village of Quargnento
The Basilica of San Dalmazio in Carrà's
home village of Quargnento
In the 1930s, Carrà signed a manifesto in which called for support of state ideology through art, joining a group founded by Giorgio Morandi, another artist with Fascist sympathies and a background in Futurism and the Scuola Metafisica, which responded to the neo-classical guidelines set by the regime in the late 1930s.

After military service in the Second World War, Carrà taught at the University of Milan. He died in 1966, aged 85.

Travel tip:

Quargnento, where Carlo Carrà was born, was originally a Roman settlement, as evidenced by the discovery by archaeologists of the ruins of a Roman garrison. It became a large farming town during the Western Roman Empire, supplying neighbouring cities. Later, the town came under the control of the Bishop of Asti, who made the significant decision in 907 to order the remains of the Christian martyr Dalmazio to be hidden there from raiding Saracens.  The remains today are housed in the Basilica of San Dalmazio.

Carrà's 1914 work Interventionist Demonstration is part of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Carrà's 1914 work Interventionist Demonstration
is part of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Travel tip:

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice is home to the works of many prominent Futurist painters, including Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni, Gino Severini and Luigi Russolo. It houses Carrà's 1914 work, Interventionist Demonstration, a Cubist-influenced collage of fragments of paper bearing words, radiating from the centre in concentric circles, said to have been inspired by the sight of leaflets dropped from aeroplanes fluttering down over Piazza del Duomo.

Venice hotels by Hotels.com

More reading:

How architect Marcello Piacentini's buildings symbolised Fascist ideals

The cycle of frescoes that confirmed the genius of Giotto

The anarchist whose 'accidental death' inspired Dario Fo's classic play

Also on this day:

1929: The Lateran Treaty turns the Vatican into an independent state

(Picture credits: Basilica by Tony Frisina via Wikimedia Commons)


No comments:

Post a Comment