Virgilio Marchi (Italian, 18951960)
Pencil and watercolor on paper; 15 1/4 x 22 1/2 in. (38.7 x 57.2 cm)
Purchase, Lita Annenberg Hazen Charitable Trust Gift, 1984 (1984.91)
Futurism was primarily concerned with images of speed and motion, which were intended to represent the spirit of the modern age. Although the greatest expression of Futurism is found in the medium of painting, there were some sculptural pieces executed as well, most notably by Umberto Boccioni. Architecture, a later focus for the movement, provided another three-dimensional forum for Futurist ideas about dynamism. The resulting schemes were visionary imaginings that were difficult to translate into actual structures and so remained, for the most part, studies on paper.
In its upwardly spiraling movement, this drawing by Virgilio Marchi typifies Futurist architectural design. It is one of several renderings made by Marchi in 1919 and 1920 for an ideal contemporary city that was never erected. His plans indicated the preoccupation of the period with technological advances in transportation and construction. The building in the present study resembles a coneround at the bottom, pointed at the top. There are tunneled areas and open archways below, with stairs leading to various flat levels. The two towers that rise from the center are openly constructed with stairs and columns. A spotlight is perched on a beam that extends from the peak of the left tower. The sweeping curves and strong, linear slashes of this beautiful drawing are reminiscent of Giacomo Balla's earlier painted imagery.
Marchi produced his mature work after World War I, when the major proponents of the original Futurist movement were either dead or experimenting in different directions. He was part of the group of artists in Rome affiliated with Enrico Prampolini's review Noi. His designs followed closely the Futurist principles of architecture that had been spelled out by Antonio Sant'Elia in 1914, ideas that Marchi reiterated in 1920 in his own "Manifesto of Futurist Architecture."