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Scaricatori di carbone (Coal Carriers). Drypoint on chamois-coloured wove paper. 15.1 x 19.5 cm (platemark); 40.8 x 50.2 cm (sheet size). Signed. (1907). Bellini 7, only one state, version B (of F).
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The painter and sculptor, Umberto Boccioni, produced a relatively modest yet artistically noteworthy printed oeuvre which, despite its consistently naturalist approach, betrays rudiments of Futurism in some of the prints. Without exception all the prints are etchings or dry point etchings, done between 1907 and 1910. During this time Boccioni studied briefly in Venice and then in Milan, where he made the acquaintance of the like-minded young artists, Carlo Carrà, Luigi Russolo and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. Together with them and his earlier fellow students, Giacomo Balla and Gino Severini, the artist published the first Futurist manifesto in February 1910.
In contrast to the very early etchings with their dark, tonal quality, a number of Boccioni’s works from the Venetian period have a more linear design. Paolo Bellini, author of the first definitive catalogue of the artist’s prints, distinguishes in this context between groups of etchings that are “light” (“chiare”) or “dark” (“scure”). The Coal Carriers is Boccioni’s first purely dry point work, executed in Venice in 1907, which Bellini classifies among the “light” etchings. The clear linear style, the renunciation of any hatching and the suggestive emphasis of the outlines lend the scene a compelling force. The work reveals Boccioni’s interest in impetuous movement and action and gives spectacular expression to the dynamic energy of the modern industrial age. Balancing on a beam, the men shoulder their heavy load with great vigour; clouds of smoke and the steam belching from the funnel of a ship inject added elements of drama and tension. The present etching is extremely rare, only a few impressions being printed during the artist’s lifetime. This one is a proof impression of version B. Bellini records only one impression of this state, which is in a private collection in Geneva. The present sheet was unknown to him.
A superb impression, printing with considerable contrast and tone, with wide margins. Minor soiling, slight traces of handling, otherwise in excellent condition.