Gino Severini signed Futurist manifestos and shared that movement's fascination with 'universal dynamism', writes Andrew Mead; though, when it came to depicting motion on canvas, his preferred subjects were dancers, not aeroplanes or cars.But did he wholly give his heart to Futurism? In his catalogue essay for this touring show, Christopher Green implies not. For Severini was distant from the movement's centre, Milan; he lived in Montmartre, marrying the daughter of a French poet in 1913. Three years later, forsaking Futurism for a Cubist idiom, he was among those artists who sought 'a return to order' amid the chaos of the First World War.
From the evidence of this exhibition, Severini thrived on that change of direction. For the 'radical' Futurist works now seem rather laboured and formulaic; historically significant in attempting to capture what was happening to vision in the modern world but hardly fluid enough to convey a true sensation of speed.But, in a Cubist mode much like his friend Juan Gris, Severini is more persuasive. Several still-life paintings at the Estorick are beautiful, even if one wonders about their derivativeness (see left).
Geometry and mathematical calculation suited Severini: a drawing, Study for Still Life with Fish (1919), shows the careful pre-plotting that underlies each canvas. A confident way with colour enlivens the results.