Giacomo Balla (1871-1958)
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Giacomo Balla (1871-1958)

Trasformazione forme spiriti

Details
Giacomo Balla (1871-1958)
Trasformazione forme spiriti
signed and dated 'FUTUR BALLA 1918' (lower left)
gouache on paper
16 1/2 x 23 3/8in. (42 x 59.5cm.)
Executed in 1918
Provenance
Private collection, New York, by 1962.
Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, London, 29 November 1989, lot 453.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Literature
M. Drudi Gambillo & T. Fiori, Archivi del Futurismo, vol. II, Rome, 1962, no. 243c, p. 166.
M. Fagiolo dell'Arco, Futur Balla, Rome, 1970, p. XLI (dated '1916-1920').
G. Lista, Balla, Modena, 1982, no. 580, p. 285 (illustrated p. 284).
Exhibited
Turin, Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna, Giacomo Balla, April 1963, no. 158.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Alessandro Diotallevi
Alessandro Diotallevi

Lot Essay

Trasformazione forme spiriti dates from 1918, when Giacomo Balla was one of the main proponents of Futurist painting. This picture, deftly executed in gouache, shows a deep blue sky which appears to be pierced by lines of dynamic force, while a complex interplay of celestial forms hovers above. These resemble a combination of constellations and clouds, and perhaps track the movements of the various bodies in the night sky. At the same time, this vision is clearly not based on literal phenomena, it is not purely figurative: instead, it is an image of invisible forces reacting with the sky. This is an image that is linked to the spirit and the mind as much as it is to the empirical, visible world around us. It is an occult vision, perhaps showing spirits which have reacted to the cosmic rays and are themselves rising upwards [see Giacomo Balla (1871-1958), exh. cat., Rome, 1971, p. 173].

Trasformazione forme spiriti was one of a small group of pictures created with the same title around 1918, at the end of the First World War. At the same time, Balla had also been making landscapes that were increasingly subjective, focussing on mental, emotional or spiritual dimensions rather than the dynamism of movement and light that had formerly been his key interests. Trasformazione forme spiriti is linked to those works in the fact that it remains anchored in the real world: Balla had long been fascinated by the night sky, and had recorded its appearance in a number of different ways in pictures from throughout his career. Indeed, in 1914, he had painted Mercurio passa davanti al sole, a work which combined his fascination for astronomy with the Futurism of which he was one of the leading pioneers.

By the time he created Trasformazione forme spiriti, Balla knew that painting had to change to survive. In 1918, the year that Trasformazione forme spiriti was created and that he showed related pictures to the public in an exhibition at the Casa d'Arte Bragaglia in Rome, Balla declared: 'Given the existence of photography and cinematography, the pictorial reproduction of reality does not and cannot interest anyone any more' (Balla, Manifesto del colore, 1918, reproduced in G. Lista, Balla, Modena, 1982, p. 473). Later, in words that also apply to Trasformazione forme spiriti, he ended this brief manifesto by saying that, 'Futurist painting is an explosion, a surprise. Dynamic painting: simultaneity of forces' (Balla, quoted ibid., p. 473).

By 1918, Balla was revealing an increasing tendency towards colour in his pictures, as is the case in Trasformazione forme spiriti. He felt that too much modern painting had been weighed down in greys, browns and monotones. For him, colourism was itself a proud Italian legacy, and one which he sought to continue. This is clearly the case in Trasformazione forme spiriti, where there is a rich contrast between the bursts of light in the rays and the zig-zagging, lightning-like flashes at the top, which contrast so profoundly with the deep blue of the broad mass of the backdrop. By rooting his image in the visual language of lightning and spotlights, Balla manages to make the spiritual dimension of this picture all the more comprehensible and all the more lyrical.

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