Gino Severini studied at the Scuola Tecnica in Cortona before moving to Rome in 1899. There he attended art classes at the Villa Medici and by 1901 met Umberto Boccioni, who had also recently arrived in Rome and later would be one of the theoreticians of Futurism. Together, Severini and Boccioni visited the studio of Giacomo Balla, where they were introduced to painting with “divided” rather than mixed color. Severini moved to Paris in 1906 and met leading members of the French avant-garde, such as the Cubist painters Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso and the writer Guillaume Apollinaire. Severini continued to work in the pointillist manner—an approach that entailed applying dots of contrasting colours according to principles of optical science—until 1910, when he signed the Futurist painters’ manifesto. After joining the Futurist movement at the invitation of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and Boccioni, Severini signed the Manifesto tecnico della pittura futurista of April 1910, along with Balla, Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, and Luigi Russolo.
Whereas Futurists typically painted moving cars or machines, Severini usually portrayed the human figure as the source of energetic motion in his paintings. He was especially fond of painting nightclub scenes in which he evoked the sensations of movement and sound by filling the picture with rhythmic forms and cheerful, flickering colours.
Severini helped organize the first Futurist exhibition at Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, in February 1912, and participated in subsequent Futurist shows in Europe and the United States. In 1913, he had solo exhibitions at the Marlborough Gallery, London, and Der Sturm, Berlin. During the Futurist period, Severini acted as an important link between artists in France and Italy. After his last truly Futurist works—a series of paintings on war themes—Severini painted in a Synthetic Cubist mode, and by 1920 he was applying theories of classical balance based on the Golden Section to figurative subjects from the traditional commedia dell’arte. He divided his time between Paris and Rome after 1920. He explored fresco and mosaic techniques and executed murals in various mediums in Switzerland, France, and Italy during the 1920s. In the 1950s, he returned to the subjects of his Futurist years: dancers, light, and movement. Throughout his career, Severini published important theoretical essays and books on art.