Mario Sironi, Untitled (Man Opening a Door), 1932


The birth of the Futurist movement in the early 20th century was not only a response to artistic traditions but also a reflection of the complex political and sociological context of the time. Emerging in Italy during a period of profound change, Futurism was deeply intertwined with the political, social, and cultural dynamics of its era. In this article, we will explore the political and sociological backdrop against which Futurism developed and understand how it both influenced and was influenced by these factors.

Political Landscape

Italy had only unified as a nation in the late 19th century, and nationalism was a potent force in early 20th-century Italian politics. The Futurists, notably Marinetti, embraced this fervour, often aligning themselves with aggressive nationalist and expansionist ideologies. They saw war as a means to strengthen the national spirit and eliminate the perceived stagnation of the past.

At the same time, Italy’s quest for imperial glory led to the Italo-Turkish War in 1911 and later involvement in World War One. Futurist ideals of dynamism and progress resonated with the notion of expanding Italian influence and power on the global stage. This led to some Futurists gravitating toward the emerging Fascist movement, seeing parallels between their own desire for radical change and that of Benito Mussolini’s group. Marinetti, for a time, was a vocal supporter of Mussolini and the Fascist Party.

Sociological Landscape

The early 20th century saw rapid urbanisation and industrialisation in Italy. Cities like Milan and Turin were at the forefront of this transformation. Futurist artists and writers were deeply inspired by the dynamism and energy of the modern city, which is evident in their works. The era was characterised by remarkable technological advancements, including the proliferation of automobiles, aeroplanes and the electrification of cities. The Futurists celebrated these innovations and saw them as symbols of a promising future.

The young and restless were at the heart of Futurism. The movement appealed to a generation eager to break free from traditional constraints and embrace the possibilities of the future. It embodied a sense of youthful rebellion against the established norms of art and society. However, amidst the rapid changes, there was also a sense of disillusionment with the past. Futurism’s rejection of tradition and its call for radical change resonated with those who felt that old conventions were inadequate to address the challenges of the modern world.

Gino Severini, The Boulevard (Le Boulevard), 1910-1911

Gino Severini, The Boulevard (Le Boulevard), 1910-1911

The Futurist movement was a product of its time, born in the crucible of Italy’s evolving political and sociological landscape. It thrived in an atmosphere of nationalism, imperial ambitions and radical political ideologies. Simultaneously, it drew inspiration from the urbanisation, technological progress and youthful energy of the early 20th century.

Futurism’s ties to nationalism and some of its later associations with Fascism remain a subject of controversy and debate. Nevertheless, its impact on art, literature, and cultural thought cannot be denied. Futurism challenged convention, celebrated the dynamism of modern life and left an indelible mark on the course of 20th-century art and society. Understanding its political and sociological context helps shed light on the movement’s origins and motivations, making it a compelling chapter in the history of art and culture.

In-depth reading

Against Mussolini: Art and the Fall of a Dictator

Further Teachers' Resources

- The beginning of Futurism Read more
- Capturing Motion Read more
- Giorgio Morandi Read more
- Capturing the Human Spirit Read more
- Metaphysical Marvels Read more
- Simultaneity and Synaesthesia Read more
- Shaping Tomorrow Read more

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