umberto boccioni the city rises
The original title of the painting was Il lavoro (Work), as it appeared at the Mostra d’arte libera (Exhibition of free art) in Milan in 1911. Though realistic elements are present, such as the building, and the space is still rendered through perspective, this painting is considered the first true futurist work by Umberto Boccioni, even though it is not markedly different from his several previous works centered on suburbs. In this painting the naturalistic vision of the previous works is partly abandoned, replaced by a more dynamic vision.
Buildings in construction in a suburb can be seen with chimneys in the upper part, but most of the space is occupied by men and horses, melted together in a dynamic effort.  Boccioni thus emphasizes some of the most typical elements of futurism, the exaltation of human work and the importance of the modern town, built around modern necessities.  The painting portrays the construction of a new city with developments and technology. Suburbs, and the urban environment in general, formed the basis of many of Boccioni’s paintings, from the capture of the staccato sounds of construction in The Street-Pavers to the riot of sound and colour offered to the observer of street scenes, as typified by The Street Enters the House.
In 1912 the picture was bought by the musician Ferruccio Busoni during the travelling futurist art exposition in Europe. It has been exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City as part of their permanent collection.
The City Rises is considered by many to be the very first truly Futurist painting. Boccioni took a year to complete it and it was exhibited throughout Europe shortly after it was finished. It testifies to the hold that Neo-Impressionism and Symbolism maintained on the movement’s artists even after Futurism was inaugurated in 1909. It was not until around 1911 that Boccioni adapted elements of Cubism to create a distinct Futurist style. Nevertheless, The City Rises does capture the group’s love of dynamism and their fondness for the modern city. A large horse races into the foreground while several workers struggle to gain control of it, suggesting a primeval conflict between humanity and beasts. The horse and figures are blurred, communicating rapid movement while other elements, such as the buildings in the background, are rendered more realistically. At the same time, the perspective teeters dramatically in different sections of the painting.
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In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.
The geometric elements and the perspectival distortion in The The Street Enters the House demonstrate the influence of Expressionism and Cubism on Boccioni. According to the original catalog entry for the work, “The dominating sensation is that which one would experience on opening a window: all life, and the noises of the street rush in at the same time as the movement and the reality of the objects outside.”
Bronze – Museum of Modern Art, New York
The act of aestheticizing tangible forms of chaos within art has been made synonymous to several artistic movements throughout history. However, from popularizing violent dynamics to synthesizing war-fueled social movements, futurism, in particular has been noted for its distinct visual language, artistic technique, and captivating color palette. Originating in Italy in the early 1900’s, futurism glorifies, as well as visualizes both the political and social tensions of its time. A clear example of such is demonstrated in Luigi Russolo’s 1926 “Impression of the Bombardment”, which showcases the raw mechanization of a bomb being dropped in lieu of the carnage created by the destructive weapon. The literal “dropping” of the bomb is painted in angular cut forms that are then shown to be shooting from the sky whilst painted in a polarizing red. The hard, jagged, geometrized lines and red scream across the canvas as it viscerally projects a dynamic speed and rage. This clawed aesthetic is also an infusion of modernism as the painting is shown from the perspective of an airplane combined with a complete lack of human bodies. Painted in regards to a non-existent relationship between man and war whilst simultaneously pushing forth the themes of: technology, speed, violence and industrialization – this painting transformed a violent political act into a visual spectacle. However, Impression of the Bombardment was painted roughly 16 years later after Umberto Boccioni’s La città sale or “The City Rises”. Widely regarded as one of the early ‘fathers’ of futurism, the 1910 painting marked the beginning of the movement in Boccioni’s work as he himself wrote to a friend that “I attempted a great synthesis of labor, light and movement” (Coen). But, is “The City Rises” a true representation of the techniques, influences, and charisma of the aggressive art movement? In other words, if one was to hypothetically detach Boccioni’s name to “The City Rises”, would a cold read of the painting’s formal and conceptual composition continue to render it as a landmark piece of futurism?
Boccioni debuted “The City Rises” in May 1911 in Milan to a receiving press with mostly positive feedback after approximately a year of working on the painting. It was then coined as the painting that “introduced Futurism” as it made its way across Europe the year after in 1912. “The City Rises” formally propels the viewer into the lively streets of the painting as it enervates the dynamism of the street in itself. Shown through large, eccentric compositions of vibrant, bright colors, the street’s festivities are shown in rapid blurs of pigment that dance within a marching cadence (instead of a light wash) across the canvas. The horses in themselves become a dynamo that are transfigured to the mechanized bodies of locomotives instead of loose, organic entities. The airy brush strokes at the tip of each of the horses’ manes create the illusion of the horses dissolving into its own powered speed. In other words, the manes just feathered out into the air like a spool of kinetic energy instead of clean brushstrokes that would otherwise show the silky natural texture of the hair. The human figures, on the other hand, seem to be almost trampled, and completely overpowered by the horses as the natural human forms are painted to be both miniature, and weak.