22/4/1917 Italy’s avant garde goes to war

Before the war Italy’s Futurists embraced the mechanisation of the 20th century, with artworks hailing the dynamism of the new age. Many of the Futurists are strongly supportive of the war effort, seeing the conflict as bringing their ideas into life.

If the Futurists have a leader it is Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. He is not an artist himself but an influential art theorist and the writer of Futurist Manifesto. He is dismissive of democracy and supports an elitist view of society. He is also a keen supporter of the war.

At the war’s outbreak some of the Futurists joined the army, either as conscripts or volunteers. The painter and sculptor Umberto Boccioni joined an artillery regiment but died last year after being thrown from a horse. Marinetti is older, however, and this may have saved him from being conscripted. Yet his civilian status has not kept him away from the front. He has found a kindred spirit in General Capello, one of the army commanders on the Isonzo.

The Italians are preparing for their next Isonzo offensive (their tenth) and Capello recruits Marinetti to fire up the men’s fighting spirit. This Marinetti does by delivering what he terms “violent futurist speeches”, including readings of such of his poems as ‘The Song of the Pederasts’. What the soldiers make of these is not recorded.

Note: for more on Italy’s strange pro-war avant garde and the Italian war generally I highly recommend Mark Thompson’s book The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front.

image sources:

Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, by Umberto Boccioni (Wikipedia)

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (Encyclopaedia Brittanica)