Sironi (1885-1961) frequented the studio of Giacomo Balla when he studied in Rome during the early 1900s. He became a close friend of Umberto Boccioni and moved to Milan in 1914, where he was immediately drawn into the Futurist movement.
Sironi was interested in Boccioni’s notion of ‘plastic dynamism’, but was never in complete agreement with Futurist ideas concerning the fragmentation of form. In fact, he was attracted to Futurism more by its socio-political ideas – such as its scorn for bourgeois values and its extreme nationalism – than he was by its aesthetic principles, and he enthusiastically supported the movement’s campaign for Italian intervention in the First World War.
By the 1920s, the sprawling industrial quarters of Milan had become the dominant subject matter of Sironi’s art. In these images he adapted the disquieting Metaphysical iconography of Giorgio de Chirico to evoke a powerful sense of alienation and post-war disillusionment.
Sironi was the leading artist of the Novecento group during the 1920s, developing a lugubrious, monumental figurative style that had points of contact with Magic Realism. Although an official ‘Fascist art’ was never identified, Sironi’s work achieved great success during the inter-war years. Its ability to combine modern aesthetics with elements of Italian pictorial tradition found favour with a regime which sought to present Fascism as an unprecedented political system while simultaneously invoking the glories of ancient Rome.
A firm believer in the social and political role of art, Sironi signed the ‘Manifesto of Mural Painting’ in 1933, and created a number of mosaics and bas-reliefs for public spaces during the inter-war years. He abandoned easel painting altogether until after the war.