During their honeymoon in Switzerland in 1947, art merchant Eric Estorick and his wife Salome met Arturo Bryks, former teacher at the Bauhaus, who introduced them to the book by Umberto Boccioni on Italian Futurism. This meeting marked Eric forever, instilling a passion inside him for Italian art and, in particular, for the Futurists which would result in the Estorick Collection of Italian Modern Art, the museum in the London neighbourhood of Islington, holding important works from Italian artists from the first half of the 20th Century. Among these, Giacomo Balla could not be missing, father of Europe’s first avant-garde, Futurism, of which the Estorick Collection possesses three important works which must be seen in the year that celebrates the 150th anniversary of the birth of the painter. The artist from Turin, the “dynamic architect of atmospheres”, “the solar spirit”, as Marinetti would call him, is on hand in the gallery with three iconic masterpieces. These works date back to the period in which Balla embraced the Futurist faith, creating images characterised by a continuous fascination for light and the dynamics of movement. Next to the canvas Automobile in Velocità from 1913, and the Ritratto di Fontana from 1907, is the striking Le Mani del Violinista. In this oil on canvas from 1912, Balla followed, for a fraction of a second, the magical movement of the hands on the instrument. The image, which appears to the spectator as a sequence of photograms, slightly staggered and overlapping, communicates the spectacular impression of speed and movement. The work also shows the artist’s profound interest for photography and a careful reflection on the principals of photo-dynamics. The repetition of the images, rhythmically regular, moves downward. The hands which caress the strings of the violin fade into each other. The observer can just catch the sleeve of the black jacket of the violinist, while, in the background, the luminous ocra boiserie mixes with the hands, drawing the observer into a vortex of movement.
Samantha De Martin - © 2021 ARTE.it for Bulgari Hotel London