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Umberto Boccioni

/Works and biography

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Materia, 1912, reworked 1913
Oil on canvas, 226 x 150 cm
Gianni Mattioli Collection
Long-term loan to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice


This painting is the most ambitious project Umberto Boccioni ever accomplished. Like a watershed, it divides his early Futurist paintings from his later, fully developed Futurist work. Boccioni was particularly sensitive to the philosophy of Henri Bergson, and this title recalls that of Bergson's fundamental 1896 text, Matière et mémoire.
The subject is a full length portrait of the artist's mother (''mater''). She is seated in a room at her home in Via Adige 23, Milan, with a window behind her overlooking the Piazza Trento below. The artist has merged the frontal view of his mother with his own visual impressions of the outdoors reflected from the window panes, when he replaced her in the seat before him. The images of the horse and the man, representing incidents taking place in the piazza below the house, are different in their forms from the rest of the painting. The inspiration for the man was Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase No.2 (1912; Philadelphia Museum of Art). In place of the intersecting architectonic planes characteristic of Cubism, transparent planes with radiating and arching lines imply movement. This look forward to the language Boccioni was to use for his studies of rapid movement in the second half of 1913, such as Dynamism of a Cyclist.

credits: Hangar Design Group