Portrait of Marinetti

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Carlo Carrà (Italian, 1881–1966)
Portrait of Marinetti, 1914
Ink, watercolor, gouache, and collage on paper
21 7/8 × 15 7/8 in. (55.56 × 40.32 cm)
Gift of Friends of Art M1982.1
Photo credit: Larry Sanders
© 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome
Not Currently on View

From 1910 to 1915, Italian Futurism was one of the leading forces in avant-garde art and theory. Founded by the poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, who wrote the first Futurist Manifesto in 1909, the movement advocated a decisive break with the past, looking instead towards the future and specifically the machine for inspiration. What began as a literary phenomenon soon spread to the visual arts, with artists such as Umberto Boccioni and Carlo Carrà searching for increasingly provocative ways to express the dynamism, speed, and movement of modern experience.

Carrà's 1914 collage Portrait of Marinetti clearly sets Marinetti at the center of the Futurist maelstrom. Based on an earlier portrait of Marinetti painted by Carrà in 1911, it depicts the poet with his pen, inkwell, and paper in the throes of writing one of his many manifestos, as the words "Manifesti del Futurismo" at the right indicate. The collage extends Marinetti's theories into new territory in which fragments of literary texts and paint combine to create a picture of profound disruption. Here, like in the papier collé Cubist collages of Pablo Picasso, Carrà inserted a "new reality" into the picture, pasting actual pieces of newsprint into the illusionary space of the picture plane. Developing what Marinetti called parole in libertà, or words-in-freedom, Carrà used conflicting nouns, expressive typography, and onomatopoeic devices to effect the noises and forces of modern life and to destroy any sense of continuity within the composition. The collage becomes an assault upon the traditional values in art and provides a crucial link to the literary provocations of the Dadaist and Surrealists.

Portrait of Marinetti was first owned by Giovanni Papini, editor of the leading Futurist periodical Lacerba, where many of Marinetti's manifestos were first published. Indeed, most of the words and texts used here were cut from the pages of Lacerba, a word which itself appears three times in the composition.

Excerpt from Building A Masterpiece: Milwaukee Art Museum. New York: Hudson Hills Press, 2001, p. 190. Entry by Kristin Makholm.

Publication History
Milwaukee Art Museum. Building a Masterpiece: Milwaukee Art Museum. New York: Hudson Hill Press, 2001, p. 190, color illus.

Milwaukee Art Museum. Making Marks: Drawing in the 20th Century from Picasso to Kiefer. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Milwaukee Art Museum, 1998, p. 65, cat. 15, color illus. p. 14.

Goldstein, Rosalie, ed. Guide to the Permanent Collection. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Milwaukee Art Museum, 1986, p. 136, color illus. p. 136.
Exhibition History
Making Marks: Drawing in the 20th Century from Picasso to Kiefer, Milwaukee Art Museum, June 12–August 23, 1998.

This information is subject to change as the result of ongoing research.