Umberto Boccioni (Italian, Reggio 1882–1916 Sorte)

1913, cast 1950–51
H. 23 x W. 21 x D.16 1/2 in. (58.4 x 53.3 x 41.9 cm) 105 lbs (47.6 kg)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Lydia Winston Malbin, 1989
Accession Number:
  • Description

    One of Umberto Boccioni's favored subjects was his mother, Cecilia Forlani Boccioni. From photographs and from Boccioni's own renderings of 1906 to 1915, she appears to have been a large matronly woman with a broad round face, thick knobby fingers, and elegantly upswept gray hair. Boccioni featured her in at least forty-five paintings, drawings, etchings, and sculptures, often producing a series of studies based on a single pose.

    The title of his sculpture, "Antigraceful," refers to Boccioni's rejection of traditional artistic values. As he wrote in his book "Pittura, scultura futuriste" (1914): "We must smash, demolish, and destroy our traditional harmony, which makes us fall into a gracefulness created by timid and sentimental cubs. We disown the past because we want to forget, and in art to forget means to be renewed." Using Cubist distortions and fragmentation, Boccioni attempted to undermine the accepted concepts of proportion, harmony, and beauty. He also attached elements from the surrounding environment to this portrait (such as the building rising from the mother's head) in a Futurist union of figure and space.

    Boccioni began working in three dimensions in Paris about March 1912, when he wrote to a friend: "These days I am obsessed by sculpture! I believe I have glimpsed a complete renovation of that mummified art." A month later, in Milan, he published the "Technical Manifesto of Sculpture," and by June 1913 he had produced a significant body of eleven plaster sculptures that were exhibited at Galerie La Boëtie in Paris. Included in that exhibition was "Antigraceful," which may have been influenced by Pablo Picasso's bronze "Head of a Woman" of 1909. Guillaume Apollinaire, an admirer of Boccioni's sculpture, admonished him to have his plasters cast in bronze.

  • Exhibition History

    ¦Identita E Alterita¦, Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy, June 11 - October 15, 1995.

    ¦On Dynamism: Works by Umberto Boccioni from The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Civiche Raccolte d'Arte del Castello Sforzesco, Milano¦, Comune di Roma, Galleria Comunale d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome, Italy, June 24, 1999 - September 26, 1999, ill. p. 31 (color), no. 6, pl. VII, ill. p. 65 (b&w).

    ¦Italian Futurism, 1909-1918¦, Sprengel Museum Hannover, Hannover, Germany, March 11 - June 23, 2001; Palazzo delle Espositzioni, Rome, Italy, July 10 - November 12, 2001. (German and Italian exhibition catalogue editions)

    ¦The Avant-Garde in Danish and European Art 1909-19¦, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, Denmark, September 7, 2002 - January 19, 2003, pp.126-127, no.55. (ill. in color)

    ¦Boccioni and Futurist Sculpture¦, Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, London, England, June 28 - September 24, 2006.

    Laura Mattioli Rossi, ed., ¦Boccioni: pittore scultore futurista¦, Palazzo Reale, Milan, Italy, October 6 - January 7, 2007, ill. p. 43, checklist p. 183, no. 20, p. 43 (discussed). (ill. in color)

    Futurismo, Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome, February 20 - May 24, 2009; Tate Modern, London, June 12- September 20, 2009, pg. 234, cat. no. 81.

  • References

    Crispolti, Enrico. Futurismo, 1909-1944: Arte, architettural, spettacolo, grafica, letteratura.... Edizioni Gabriele Mazzotta, 2001. Pg. 246 (illus. in color).

    Nobis, Norbert. Der Larm Der Strasse: Italienischer Futurismus, 1909-1918. Landeshauptstadt Hannoer Der Oberburgermeister Sprengel Museum Hannover, 2001. Pg. 139, No. 111 (illus. in color); Pg. 339, No. 111 (Checklist).

    Calvesi, Maurizio and Coen, Ester. Boccioni, L'opera completa. Milan, Italy: Electa Editrice, 1983. See entry for #774, Pp. 431-433.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History