Giacomo Balla: Dynamism of a dog on a leash

Friday, 14 May 2010 11:07
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Giacomo Balla, Dynamism of a dog on a leash, 1912

This artwork represents analytically the phases of body displacement, captured on the same level  through the repetition of the parts in movement: the legs and tail of the dog, the feet of the woman and the oscillating leash. The kinetics multiplication of the form is obvious.

And in the early 20th century, it was through the example of chronophotography that the effect finally made its way onto canvas. The wish to imitate the machine and the mechanised image seduced the would-be modern artist. We find oil paintings doing something that they had never done before – using multiple limbs to indicate bodies in motion. It appears in Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase and in the works of the Italian Futurists. Giacomo Balla's Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash is one of the most striking.

A lady is walking a dog; a widow and her pet. The lady has roughly 15 feet, variably solid and see-through. The dog has eight countable tails, while its legs are lost in flurry of blurry overlays. Four swinging leads go between them. The picture's sense of movement (if that is what it actually is) is created out of stark black forms and weird flowing lacey veils.

Even without these multiplication and motion effects, Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash would be doing something that's novel. There aren't many previous paintings that present us with such an abrupt close-up. Balla takes the kind of subject that Impressionism had specialised in, a street scene with bourgeois promenaders, but he picks out only a single detail, an almost randomly chosen clip, and makes it the focus of the whole picture.

Scenarios:  Relativity
Categories: Painting