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Cyclist (Forward Movement)

The early twentieth century—known as the Machine Age—was a period of increased automation, new technologies (such as motion pictures), and revolutionary scientific theories, including Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity published in 1905. Among the first artists to explore the visual implications of these modern changes were the Italian Futurists.

This image by Boccioni, one of the founders of Futurism, relates to his series Dynamism of a Cyclist. While influenced by the planar distortions of Cubism, Boccioni’s “dynamisms” attempted to portray a fourth dimension: the continuous projection of forces and forms in infinite space. Rather than simply suggesting motion through a sequential repetition of shapes, Boccioni employed “force-lines” to indicate an object propelling forward in one direction, while being pushed back by gravity in the other. Soft crayon lines (like clouds of dust) and the elongation of forms along a horizontal axis add a sense of speed.

Umberto Boccioni
Italian, 1882–1916
Cyclist (Forward Movement), Plate 2 from New European Graphics,
4th Bauhaus Portfolio: Italian and Russian Artists
1913 (published 1922)
Lithograph on paper
Image: 8 3/8 x 12 1/4 in. (21.2 x 31.1 cm); sheet: 11 5/8 x 15 3/16 in.
(29.5 x 38.5 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 71.88