• Steven Heller

Soffici, Futurist Who Introduced Cubism

Ardengo Soffici (1879–1964) is a name that appeared on many Avant Garde books, and as a designer, writer and painter, he was something akin to F.T. Marinetti in aspects of influence during the Futurist teens and ’20s. He lived for seven years in Paris writing Symbolist journals and was part of the Cubist circle with Picasso, Braque, Gris and Apollinaire. In Italy he wrote about modern art for La Voce, including pieces on Picasso and Braque, which may have influenced the Futurists toward Cubist ideas. And he himself painted in a Cubist manner.

Yet despite an affinity with Futurism, he also wrote a hostile review in La Voce that criticized the Futurists’ Paris exhibition of 1912 in an article “Ancora del Futurismo (Futurism Again),” slamming their rhetoric and spectacle, but calling it, nonetheless, “a movement of renewal, and that is excellent.”

He later became an editor of the ultimately Futurist-leaning Lacerba, where he published “Theory of the Movement of Plastic Futurism.” But within Futurism there was infighting between the Milan and Florence groups—Soffici sided with the latter against the dominance of Marinetti and Boccioni. Still, his book of poems, BÏF§ZF+18 = Simultaneità – Chimismi lirici (1915), which I touched on here, was a classic of Futurist literature.

The cover of his novel Arelecchino (The Harlequin, 1914) was not Futurist per se, but the graphic design builds on two influences—the harlequin traditional patterned costume and a Cubistic suggestion—resulting in a modern cover for 1921 when this edition was published.

Soffici’s work is among the rare finds of early Modernism that are not as well known in Italy as they might be.

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