Zealots of All Sorts

As part of his introduction of Dr. Trelawney, Jenkins writes: “Simple-lifers, utopian socialists, spiritualists, occultists, theosophists, quietists, pacficists, futurists, cubists, zealots of all sorts in their approach to life and art … were then [1914] thought of by the unenlightened as scarcely distinguishable from one another …” [TKO 32/ ]

Among this list of zealots, cubists, futurists, and perhaps simple-lifers merit more discussion of their approach to art. We have already mentioned cubists more than once.

The Italian Futurists, like the Surrealists, extended their philosophy beyond art to many aspects of life.  In 1910 Boccioni, Carrà, Russolo, Balla, and Severini concluded their Manifesto of the Futurist Painters:

With our enthusiastic adherence to Futurism, we will:

Destroy the cult of the past, the obsession with the ancients, pedantry and academic formalism.

Totally invalidate all kinds of imitation.

Elevate all attempts at originality, however daring, however violent.

Bear bravely and proudly the smear of “madness” with which they try to gag all innovators.

Regard art critics as useless and dangerous.

Rebel against the tyranny of words: “Harmony” and “good taste” and other loose expressions which can be used to destroy the works of Rembrandt, Goya, Rodin

Sweep the whole field of art clean of all themes and subjects which have been used in the past.

Support and glory in our day-to-day world, a world which is going to be continually and splendidly transformed by victorious Science.

The dead shall be buried in the earth’s deepest bowels! The threshold of the future will be swept free of mummies! Make room for youth, for violence, for daring!

The Guggenheim Museum, New York, mounted an extensive retrospective of Futurist Art in 2014, including examining the relationship of Futurism to Italian politics during the eras of the two World Wars.

The City Rises Umberto Boccioni, 1910 oil on canvas,  The Museum of Modern Art, New York photo public domain from Wikimedia Commons

The City Rises
Umberto Boccioni, 1910
oil on canvas, 79 x 119 in
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
photo public domain from Wikimedia Commons

We show Boccioni’s The City Rises not only because it is one of earliest Futurist paintings, but also because it illustrates the interest of the Futurists in looking at modern cities in new ways.

A sad postscript to the Futurist’s tale is that their First Manifesto also included the witless boast, “We will glorify war–the world’s only hygiene . . . .”  A few years later, the First World War carried off Boccioni and several other Futurist zealots, along with countless millions of young soldiers less enamored of war’s glamour.

Yearning for the Simple Life has been a recurring human theme for generations, but we suspect Powell is referring in particular here to the Victorian simple-lifers, who intertwined with the British Arts and Crafts Movement inspired by William Morris.

Snakeshead printed cotton designed by William Morris (1876). (Identification from Linda Parry: William Morris Textiles, New York, Viking Press, 1983, p. 150) digitally enhanced photo in public domain from Planet Art CD of royalty-free PD images William Morris: Selected Works via Wikimedia Commons

Snakeshead printed cotton designed by William Morris (1876). (Identification from Linda Parry: William Morris Textiles, New York, Viking Press, 1983, p. 150)
digitally enhanced photo in public domain from Planet Art CD of royalty-free PD images William Morris: Selected Works via Wikimedia Commons

This Snakeshead textile pattern by William Morris (1834-1896) is hardly simple, but Morris promoted production of his textiles with organic dyes and was concerned for the lives of the textile workers and for wide availability of his art to the middle class. He was friendly with many of the Pre-Raphaelites, and his design firm encouraged artisans in glass, furniture, metal work, architectual carving, and murals.

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