Daily Archives: June 15, 2014

Futurism: the Birth of Modern Art

Filippo Tommaso MarinettiIn the early 20th century, a social movement began that changed the perception of the world, art, technology and modern life. It emphasized and glorified speed, the automobile, the airplane and the industrialized metropolis. Youth, violence and revolution were major themes and its founder, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, promised destruction, war and injustice.

Marinetti (22 December 1876 – 2 December 1944), born in Alexandria, Egypt, was the bastard son of a lawyer, Enrico, and his lover, Amalia Grolli (Berghaus). His affection for literature was developed young and influenced greatly by his mother who was an enthusiastic poetry admirer. He studied in Egypt, Paris and Italy to become a lawyer, like his father, but decided instead to pursue a career in literature. He based his literary work out of France but traveled frequently to Italy and wrote in both languages for an Italian–French magazine in Milan.

Futurist ManifestoIn 1909 Marinetti wrote his Futurist Manifesto which established Futurism as a revolutionary movement which voiced enthusiasm for war, the machine age, speed and modern life. In addition, it shocked the public by proclaiming that they would “destroy museums, libraries, and fight against moralism, feminism, and all utilitarian cowardice.” (Meggs). What Marinetti described as the “first will and testament to all the living men on earth” was bulleted as the following:

  1. We want to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and rashness.
  2. The essential elements of our poetry will be courage, audacity and revolt.
  3. Literature has up to now magnified pensive immobility, ecstasy and slumber. We want to exalt movements of aggression, feverish sleeplessness, the double march, the perilous leap, the slap and the blow with the fist.
  4. We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing automobile with its bonnet adorned with great tubes like serpents with explosive breath … a roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.
  5. We want to sing the man at the wheel, the ideal axis of which crosses the earth, itself hurled along its orbit.
  6. The poet must spend himself with warmth, glamour and prodigality to increase the enthusiastic fervor of the primordial elements.
  7. Beauty exists only in struggle. There is no masterpiece that has not an aggressive character. Poetry must be a violent assault on the forces of the unknown, to force them to bow before man.
  8. We are on the extreme promontory of the centuries! What is the use of looking behind at the moment when we must open the mysterious shutters of the impossible? Time and Space died yesterday. We are already living in the absolute, since we have already created eternal, omnipresent speed.
  9. We want to glorify war — the only cure for the world — militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of the anarchists, the beautiful ideas which kill, and contempt for woman.
  10. We want to demolish museums and libraries, fight morality, feminism and all opportunist and utilitarian cowardice.
  11. We will sing of the great crowds agitated by work, pleasure and revolt; the multi-colored and polyphonic surf of revolutions in modern capitals: the nocturnal vibration of the arsenals and the workshops beneath their violent electric moons: the gluttonous railway stations devouring smoking serpents; factories suspended from the clouds by the thread of their smoke; bridges with the leap of gymnasts flung across the diabolic cutlery of sunny rivers: adventurous steamers sniffing the horizon; great-breasted locomotives, puffing on the rails like enormous steel horses with long tubes for bridle, and the gliding flight of aeroplanes whose propeller sounds like the flapping of a flag and the applause of enthusiastic crowds. (Joll).

Fortunato DeperoWhile occupied on creating a collection of poems praising the wartime accomplishments of the Decima Flottiglia MAS (10th Assault Vehicle Flotilla) in Bellagio on December 2nd,1944, Marinetti died of cardiac arrest.

An influential contributor to the Futurism movement was Fortunato Depero (March 30, 1892 – November 29, 1960), an Italian painter, sculptor and writer. He is also well known for his work as a graphic designer and produced a dynamic body of work in poster, typographic and advertising design (Meggs).

Depero FuturistaDepero was born in the Italian Trentino region near Fondo and Malosco but grew up in Rovereto, to the south-west. It was in Rovereto that he first began displaying his work as a sculptor while working as an apprentice to a marble worker. Eventually, he made his way to New York and between September of 1928 and October 1930, Depero designed magazine covers for Vanity Fair, Movie Makers and Sparks, among others (Meggs).

Text formed into various shapesDepero attended Scuola Reale Elisabettina, a school that targeted the development of technical specialization and applied arts, along with other notable artists such as Luciano Baldessari, Fausto Melotti, Umberto Maganzini, Lionello Fiumi, Tullio Garbari and Carlo Belli. It was here that Depero created some of his finest artistic works (Stylepark).

In 1927, Depero published his Depero Futurista, a compilation of typographical experiments, advertisements and tapestry designs. This publication became the precursor of the modern artist’s book. Bound together with two bolts, this tome is considered a manifesto of the Machine Age. Within its pages, even more innovation was waiting to be discovered, such as the use of different typefaces, the text formed into various shapes, the use of different papers and colors, and several other typographic inventions (Colophon).

Use of different typefacesBoth Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and Fortunato Depero changed the world of art and social perceptions of their time. Marinetti’s contribution being quite obvious: founding the movement of Futurism and, through his enthusiasm, leading its followers into the future. Despero invented the artist’s book, a creative expression publ shed by the artist independent of the publishing establishment (Meggs). These visionaries, along with many others, are responsible for such further movements including Art Deco, Surrealism, Dada and Constructivism. It is safe to say that Futurism was an influence on the modern art world and all of its decedents!

Works Cited

Berghaus, Günther. “F.T. Marinetti (1876-1944): A Life Between Art and Politics”. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2006. Print.

Meggs, Philip B., and Alston W. Purvis. “Graphic Design and the Industrial Revolution”. Meggs’ History of Graphic Design. 5th ed. Hoboken, N.J.: J. Wiley & Sons, 2012. . Print.

Joll, James. Three Intellectuals in Politics. New York: Pantheon Books, 1961 / 1960. Print.

Stylepark, “Fortunato Depero (1892-1960).” Fortunato Depero. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 June 2014. <http://www.stylepark.com/en/designer/fortunato-depero>.

Colophon, “Italian Futurist Books.” Italian Futurist Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 June 2014. <http://www.colophon.com/gallery/futurism/1.html>.

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George Eastman

George Eastman“Eastman is known as the man who brought the joy of photography to millions around the world” (GEH). By introducing the general public to his Kodak camera in 1888, George Eastman gave ordinary citizens the ability to document their lives and experiences with fixed images of themselves and their loved ones. The personal, handheld Kodak camera was an invention without precedent and effectively etched his name in the history books as the father of modern photography. (Meggs)

Eastman was born in Waterville, New York on July 12th, 1854. His father worked two jobs to make ends meet: primarily teaching bookkeeping and penmanship, he also sold fruit trees and roses. By working so many hours and running between Waterville and Rochester, young George was raised mostly by his mother, Maria Kilbourn Eastman. His father died in 1862 and his mother raised him and his sisters alone until 1870 when his older sister, Katie, died of polio. (Lindsay)

The Eastman Dry-Plate CompanyAs a young man, Eastman procured a camera for a trip he never took but the event started him on a lifelong love affair with photography. Initially, he found the cost, awkwardness and weight of the photographic outfit needed serious improvements. Eastman started experimented with simple ways to develop negatives involving gelatin emulsions and by 1880 he had invented and patented a dry-plate coating machine.

The Eastman Dry Plate Company was formed in 1881 with the financial backing of Henry Strong, Eastman and Strong. In 1884, they reincorporated as the Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company as they produced and patented rollable film as an alternative to the long-standing, but clumsy, glass negative.

The Eastman Kodak CompanyEastman conceived the word “Kodak” as a distinguishing name that would be considered strong, short and unique. The word would also need to meet foreign trademark laws. In Elizabeth Brayer’s biography of George Eastman, she noted some quotes by Eastman himself describing why he chose the name Kodak for his portable camera:

He liked the letter “K” because it was “strong and incisive… firm and unyielding”. It was pronounced the same in every language, and it was the first letter of his mother’s family name. Registered as a trademark on 4 September 1888, Eastman later explained the word’s merits to the British Patent Office: “First: It is short. Second: It is not capable of mispronunciation. Third: It does not resemble anything in the art and cannot be associated with anything in the art except the Kodak.” (Brayer)

Philanthropist, Businessman, AdventurerThe Eastman Kodak Company was founded in 1892 by Eastman and was one of the first companies to mass-produce standardized cinematography equipment. The Brownie camera was introduced in 1900 and was a modest cardboard box that took small, 2 ¼-inch square pictures. By being so simple and inexpensive, the Brownie was a camera for the masses that anyone could use. Kodak adopted the slogan “You push the button, we do the rest.”, which essentially summed up the uncomplicatedness of its design in a catchy phrase that, in turn, described the process of returning the first cameras back to the company for their film development.

Eastman was a great philanthropist, a successful businessman and an adventurer, at heart. His obvious achievements in the photographic arena and his influence on modern filmmaking and great strides at perfecting photo development would be enough to ensure his place in history; however, Eastman was also generous to a fault. He donated almost $20 million to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, $625 thousand to the Mechanics Institute (the Rochester Institute of Technology) and roughly $2 million each to the Tuskegee Institute and the Hampton Institute. Near the end of his life, Eastman traveled extensively. Two notable trips were to Kenya in 1926, between March and October, and to Uganda in 1928.

By 1930, Eastman was in considerable pain from a condition diagnosed as a form of degenerative disease affecting his spine and he had trouble standing. Over the next two years, he grew progressively more depressed due to this intense discomfort and reduced capacity to function and on March 14, 1932, Eastman committed suicide with a single gunshot through the heart, leaving a note which read: “My work is done. Why wait?” Eastman was buried at Kodak Park in Rochester, New York on the grounds of the company he founded forty years earlier.

Father of modern photographyWhile Eastman considered his work done, his company lives on and has revolutionized the photograph, the negative development, modern filmmaking. From early 1880 when a young George leased the third floor of a building on State Street in Rochester, New York where he began manufacturing dry plates to his invention of roll film, the basis for the creation of motion picture film, five years later, Eastman was destined to change the world of photography. A mere three years later, the first model of the Kodak camera was introduced to the public and it only took Eastman a year to form the Eastman Company A driven visionary, George Eastman pushed the Eastman Kodak Company of New York into the 1990’s by producing the Brownie, color film, instant cameras and digital cameras. (Ackerman)

If it hadn’t been for George Eastman, our world could very well be a much less colorful and documented place to live. Today we enjoy truly instant image reproductions by way of the internet, digital cameras and applications that share our images around the globe in nanoseconds and all of this technology can be traced back to the “father of modern photography” who “brought the joy of photography to millions”.

Works Cited

Meggs, Philip B., and Alston W. Purvis. “Graphic Design and the Industrial Revolution”. Meggs’ History of Graphic Design. 5th ed. Hoboken, N.J.: J. Wiley & Sons, 2012. . Print.

Lindsay, David. The Wizard of Photography: The Story of George Eastman and How He Transformed Photography. People & Events. n.d. Web. 2 June, 2014. < http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/eastman/peopleevents/pande02.html >.

Brayer, Elizabeth. “You Press the Button…” George Eastman: a Biography. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996. . Print.

GEH. About George Eastman. George Eastman House Online. n.d. Web. 2 June, 2014. < http://www.eastmanhouse.org/collections/eastman/biography.php >.

Ackerman, Carl W.. George Eastman: founder of Kodak and the photography business. Washington, D.C.: BeardBooks, 20001930. Print.

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