Collection 1880s–1940s

Umberto Boccioni. Unique Forms of Continuity in Space. 1913 (cast 1931 or 1934) 505

Bronze, 43 7/8 x 34 7/8 x 15 3/4" (111.2 x 88.5 x 40 cm). Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest (by exchange)

Curator, Anne Umland: This bronze, gleaming figure by the Italian artist, Umberto Boccioni seems caught somehow, to me, between the classical past and the twentieth century. It's a figure that strides forward purposefully at the same time as its limbs are securely anchored to blocks. It's almost as if the flesh, the surface of the figure flickers back sort of in this fluttering flame-like manner. And its form, its armless torso, its very posture recalls a very famous 2000-year-old sculpture, the Nike of Samothrace. But at the same time, of course, its burnished, gleaming metal surfaces and fractured forms are so much of the early twentieth-century moment.

Boccioni was a principle figure within the Futurist movement, both as a theorist and as an artist. The Futurists were a group of Italian writers and visual artists and poets who in the second decade of the twentieth century wrote a number of manifestos outlining or declaring their desire to invent, to create a new form of art that would reflect the dynamism of the machine age. If you look not only at their sculptures, their paintings, their printed matter, all of them somehow convey a sense of speed of motion, of things broken apart, or on the verge of being.

Boccioni, in a manifesto of 1910, called for artists to fling open the figure and let it incorporate within itself whatever may surround it. And it is that ambition that I think you see him realizing in this sculpture.

19 / 57