Giacomo BALLA (1871-1958), Italian painter, who was one of the founders and leading artists of the futurist school. He was born in Turin, Italy, on July 24, 1871. Except for a brief period of study in Paris, he was almost entirely self-taught. Settling in Rome in 1901, he began his career as a realistic painter, but he soon turned to symbolism and then to a form of neo-impressionism called “divisionism.” With the Italian painters Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrâ, Gino Severini, and Luigi Russolo, he signed the “Manifesto of the Futurist Painters” on Feb. 11, 1910. The painters of the futurist movement, which flourished only from 1910 to about 1916, attempted to represent objects, especially animals and machines, in motion. Giacomo Balla exhibited with the futurists after 1912 and remained faithful to the movement long after its other adherents had deserted it. In the 1920’s, however, he began to paint in other styles and by the 1930’s had abandoned futurism for more traditionally representational painting. He died in Rome on March 6, 1958.
As a futurist, Giacomo Balla was indebted to cubism for much of his style. His best futurist paintings are intensely dynamic and energetic. His subjects are frequently birds in flight, as in Swifts: Paths of Movement (1913), and automobiles in motion, as in Speeding Automobile (1912) and Automobile Speed Plus Lights Plus Noises (1913). Both Balla and Russolo tried to express body movements in many of their paintings. Balla’s most notable attempts are Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (1912) and Rhythm of the Violinist (1914). His important paintings in other styles include the socially conscious The Sewer (1902), from his realistic period, and The Mad Woman (1905), from his neoimpressionist period.