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Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash

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Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash
Italian: Dinamismo di un cane al guinzaglio[1]
Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (1912) by Giacomo Balla
ArtistGiacomo Balla
Year1912 (1912)
Mediumoil on canvas
SubjectA dog on a leash
Dimensions89.8 cm × 109.8 cm (35.4 in × 43.2 in)[1]
LocationAlbright–Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York

Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (Italian: Dinamismo di un cane al guinzaglio), sometimes called Dog on a Leash[2] or Leash in Motion,[3] is a 1912 painting by Italian Futurist painter Giacomo Balla.[4] It was influenced by the artist's fascination with chronophotographic studies of animals in motion.[4][5] It is considered one of his best-known works,[6] and one of the most important works in Futurism,[5] though it received mixed critical reviews.[4][7][8][9][10] The painting has been in the collection of the Albright–Knox Art Gallery since 1984.[1]

Description and context[edit]

The painting depicts a dachshund on a leash and the feet of a lady walking it, both in rapid motion as indicated by the blurring and multiplication of their parts.[4]

Chronophotographic studies of animals in motion, created by scientist Étienne-Jules Marey beginning in the 1880s, led to the introduction in painting of techniques to show motion, such as blurring, multiplication, and superimposition of body parts—perhaps in an effort to imitate these mechanical images.[4][5] Such multiplication can be seen in Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2, painted the same year as Balla's painting.[4]

Balla's interest in capturing a single moment in a series of planes was inspired by his fascination with chronophotography.[5] In later, more abstract works created during World War I, Balla used planes of color to suggest movement.[6]

The decomposition of movement into moments in time which Balla created in Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash likely inspired the photodynamic technique of Futurist photographer Anton Giulio Bragaglia.[11]

Published in Arthur Jerome Eddy, Cubists and Post-impressionism, A.C. McClurg & Co. Chicago, 1914, p. 165[12]


The painting was exhibited in the Galerie Der Sturm's Autumn Salon in Berlin from September to December 1913, accompanied by a photograph of the scene.[13][14] It was sold by the artist in 1938 to the industrialist Anson Conger Goodyear. Upon his death in 1964, Goodyear bequeathed the painting jointly to his son, George F. Goodyear, with a life interest, and to the Albright–Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York. The gallery acquired the painting in December 1984.[1]

Critical responses[edit]

In 1943, artist Cornelia Geer LeBoutillier criticized the painting, comparing it unfavorably with Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase (a work with which it is often compared[4][2][9]) and Picasso's Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, calling Balla's work "more crude, less mature, almost childish indeed ... Balla takes himself and his dog so seriously, so studiedly, that it is doubtful that any pleasure has ever come out of it anywhere; certainly no movement has."[7] Writing in 1947, critic Henry R. Hope called Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash "a cliché of modern art".[8] Writer Geoffrey Wagner declared Balla's painting to be anathema to the Vorticist aesthetic of British painter Wyndham Lewis, who criticized Futurism for its "romantic excess" and dynamism.[9] However, S. I. Hayakawa credited Balla's "classic" for its introduction of the time dimension in its representation of its subject.[2]

In 2009, art critic Tom Lubbock declared the painting "one of the most striking" chronophotography-inspired works, pointing to several features which create a comical effect: the "abrupt close-up" on a trivial subject—a "twee prim sausage dog"—which might have been a single detail in an Impressionist street scene; the bathetic juxtaposition of the word dynamism, "with its connotations of heroism, of the mighty modern machine world" against that subject; the cropping of the owner at the knee, giving a dog's view (and anticipating Tom and Jerry cartoons); and the apparently frenetic motion of the dog's limbs and tail coupled with the stillness of its body, suggesting little forward progress. Lubbock describes Balla's motion effects as "creating new sensations and new phenomena", and evoking the motion of shuffling cards and the embodiment of ghosts.[4]

In 2014, art critic Robert C. Morgan declared Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash, along with Gino Severini's paintings Blue Dancer and Dynamic Hieroglyphic of the Bal Tabarin, to be "probably the most elegant and accurate works ever painted in the Futurist tradition." He credits these works with "moving status into kinesis, stillness into motion, and thus giving life to culture, bringing it back from the bucolic ornaments of the 19th century."[10]

Influence outside art[edit]

A 2002 research paper on machine vision by computer scientists Roman Goldenberg, Ron Kimmel, Ehud Rivlin, and Michael Rudzsky used Futurism's techniques of motion, as embodied by Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash, to illustrate the mathematical representation of periodic motion using a small number of eigenshapes.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Dinamismo di un cane al Guinzaglio, 1912". Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Hayakawa, S. I. (Summer 1947). "The Revision of Vision: A Note on the Semantics of Modern Art". ETC: A Review of General Semantics. 4 (4): 258–267. JSTOR 42581524.
  3. ^ Greer, Thomas H. (January 1969). Music and its Relation to Futurism, Cubism, Dadaism, and Surrealism: 1905 to 1950 (PDF) (PhD dissertation). North Texas State University. p. 16. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Lubbock, Tom (3 September 2009). "Great Works: Dynamism of A Dog on a Leash (1912) Giacomo Balla". The Independent. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d "Important Art and Artists of Futurism". The Art Story. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Giacomo Balla". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  7. ^ a b LeBoutillier, Cornelia Geer (Fall 1943). "Art as Communication" (PDF). Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. 2 (8): 75–84. doi:10.1111/1540_6245.jaac2.8.0076. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-08-06. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  8. ^ a b Hope, Henry R. (Winter 1947–48). "Black Magic and Modern Art". College Art Journal. 7 (2): 116–120. doi:10.2307/772677. JSTOR 772677.
  9. ^ a b c Wagner, Geoffrey (September 1954). "Wyndham Lewis and the Vorticist Aesthetic". The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. 13 (1): 11. doi:10.2307/427013. JSTOR 427013.
  10. ^ a b Morgan, Robert C. (14 March 2014). "Italian Futurism, or the Lessons of Art and Politics". Hyperallergic. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  11. ^ Bossaglia, Rossana (1990). Astrattismo (in Italian). Giunti Editore. p. 19. ISBN 9788809761476. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  12. ^ Arthur Jerome Eddy, Cubists and Post-impressionism, A.C. McClurg & Co. Chicago, 1914
  13. ^ Berghaus, Günter (21 May 2014). International Yearbook of Futurism Studies 2014. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG. p. 312. ISBN 9783110334104. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  14. ^ Caws, Mary Ann (1 December 2000). Manifesto: A Century of Isms. Bison Books. p. xxx. ISBN 9780803264236. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  15. ^ Goldenberg, Roman; Kimmel, Ron; Rivlin, Ehud; Rudzsky, Michael (May 2002). "'Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash' or Behavior Classification by Eigen-decomposition of Periodic Motions" (PDF). Proceedings of the 7th European Conference on Computer Vision: 461–475. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-09-11. Retrieved 20 July 2016.