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Giacomo Balla was born in Turin, Italy in 1871, the son of a photographer. He began working as a lithographer, but moved to Rome in 1893 where he made his living as an artist. He gained some reputation at the beginning of the 20th century as a painter of the Divisionist style. In 1910, at considerable personal sacrifice, Balla associated himself with the Futurist movement. His painting "Lampe Electrique" was inspired by the first electric lighting in the streets of Rome, where the glare of the lights is represented by a spreading arrangement of sharply defined arrowheads of brilliance against the surrounding gloom. In 1912 a painting called "Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash" conveys the impression of motion going past a stationary spectator by using blurred outlines, multiple legs and the repeated curves of the leash.
Balla and his family lived in an apartment in Rome that had become a repository for his futuristic paintings, theories, artifacts and audacious ideas. It contained fragments from each of his previous residences. The apartment was a living museum of the artist's intervention with everyday objects, a showcase for things as varied as a wooden egg holder with pastel painted geometric shapes, poised like a traffic-signal box; bedspreads appliquéd with vortexes; musical instruments made from timber and metal plates; blade-shaped handbags; and futuristic dinner jackets in electrifying colors.
He was acknowledged as the leader of Futurism; he became more interested in painting aspects of modern industrial life and he became one of the most original and inventive of futurist artists.
In 1913 through 1916 he painted pictures that approached pure abstraction. He was revered as the last survivor of a brilliant phase of modern Italian art but his paintings eventually lost their earlier vigor and tended toward decorative mannerism, reverting to figural representation. He died in 1958.
Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.
The Oxford Companion to 20th Century Art, edited by Harold Osborne
Jonathan Turner in ARTnews, December 1989
Dictionary of 20th Century art, edited by Ian Chilvers, Oxford University Press, 1998