“I’ve always painted I’m painting / I will paint until the last moment”
Giacomo Balla was born in Turin on 18 July 1871.
He trained at the Accademia Albertina di Belle Arti and the Liceo Artistico in Turin and in 1891 exhibited for the first time in an exhibition sponsored by the Società Promotrice di Belle Arti. From 1892 he attended the University of Turin, where Cesare Lombroso also taught. It is not certain whether Balla followed Lombroso’s lectures, but he was certainly formed in the climate of scientific positivism, mistrustful of idealistic vagueness and the fog of metaphysics; concepts that would inspire Balla in his most creatively incisive years.
In 1895 he moved to Rome where he continued his training and in particular his interest in the codes of experimental, realistic and research photography. His painting tends to transpose the most novel aspects of the new visual codes of photography, both in colour and composition.
In 1900 the artist spent a seven-month period in Paris where he experienced the urban dimension of the modern metropolis, and where he visited the Exposition Universelle and experienced first-hand the latest developments in Impressionism. In 1902 he was among the participants at the Quadriennale in Turin, in conjunction with the famous Exposition Universelle des Arts Décoratifs. It was here that the young Balla encountered The Fourth State by Pelizza da Volpedo and Divisionism: it was from this moment that the artist moved on to a more extreme, lucid and systematic Divisionism.
In the following years, Gino Severini and Umberto Boccioni were trained in his studio, while Balla’s works were exhibited at the International Art Exhibition of the City of Venice and in 1903, at the Glaspalast in Munich. In 1904 he participated in the Internationale Kunstausstellung in Düsseldorf and in 1909 exhibited at the Salon d’Automne in Paris.
His research was now on the threshold of Futurism; it was his pupil Boccioni who involved the master and in 1910 Balla signed the second manifesto of Futurist painting with Boccioni, Severini, Carlo Carrà and Luigi Russolo, but he would only exhibit with the Futurists from 1913 onwards.
In 1912 he stayed in London and Düsseldorf where he painted his first abstract studies on light, linked to his ongoing research into chronophotographic painting, leading to the famous Iridescent Compenetration’s.
Between 1912 and 1914, after becoming acquainted with the photodynamic photographs of the Bragaglia brothers, he studied movement and the ‘line of speed’, leading to his works on moving cars. In 1914 he tried his hand at sculpture for the first time, which he presented at the First Free Futurist Exhibition at the Sprovieri Gallery in Rome. He also designed and decorated Futurist furniture and designed the Futurist ‘antineutral’ clothes. With Fortunato Depero he drew up the Futurist manifesto Ricostruzione futurista dell’universo (Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe) in 1915. In the same year he held his first personal exhibitions at the Società Italiana Lampade Elettriche ‘Z’ and at the Sala d’Arte A. Angelelli in Rome. His works were also exhibited at the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915 and in 1918, one of his personal exhibitions was organised by the Casa d’Arte Bragaglia in Rome. Subsequently, the artist continued to exhibit in Europe and the United States and in 1935 he was appointed a member of the Accademia di San Luca in Rome, where he died on 1 March 1958.