Carlo Carrà

Atmospheric Swirls - A Bursting Shell, 1914
Avvolgimenti atmosferici – scoppio di un obice

Ink, collage and charcoal on paper
26.6 x 37.2 cm

This small yet powerful work was one of twelve drawings included in a volume of essays titled Guerrapittura (Warpainting) that Carlo Carrà published in 1915. It incorporates references to F. T. Marinetti’s famous experimental poem Zang Tumb Tumb (1914), which made extensive use of onomatopoeia to evoke the sounds of the modern battlefield. Marinetti’s notorious declaration that war was “the world’s only hygiene” may be interpreted as the ultimate expression of Futurist iconoclasm. However, it was more than just an aggressive metaphor for progress, and had a very real political dimension. In the early twentieth century Italy was still a relatively young nation, having only become fully unified in 1870. A belief that military conflict would enable the country to assert itself on the world stage led the Futurists to support intervention on the side of the Entente powers (Britain, Russia and France) in 1914. When Italy entered the war the following year, a number of the movement’s members enlisted enthusiastically as volunteers. Tragically, two of its most promising figures died during the conflict: Umberto Boccioni (who fell from his horse during a training exercise) and the architect Antonio Sant’Elia, who was killed at the front.

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