Lot 39
  • 39

Gino Severini

400,000 - 600,000 GBP
425,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Gino Severini
  • L'Autobus
  • signed G. Severini and dated 1913 (lower right)
  • charcoal and pencil on paper


Private Collection, Milan

May Walter, New York (acquired by 1961)

Eugene V. Thaw, New York

Mario Tazzoli Gallery, Turin

Galleria Philippe Daverio, Milan

Leonardo Mondadori, Milan

Barbara Mathes Gallery, New York

Private Collection, Massachusetts

Private Collection (acquired from the above. Sold: Sotheby's, London, 15th October 2007, lot 2)

Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


Berlin, Galerie der Sturm, Sechszehnte Ausstellung: Gemälde und Zeichnungen des Futuristen Gino Severini, 1913, no. 12, illustrated in the catalogue

London, Marlborough Gallery, The Futurist painter Severini exhibits his latest works, 1913, no. 12, illustrated in the catalogue

Naples, Galleria Futurista, Prima Esposizione di Pittura Futurista, 1914, no. 15

Rome, Galleria in Via del Tritone 123, Présence: Gino Severini, 1945, no. 8

New York, The Museum of Modern Art; Detroit, Institute of Arts & Los Angeles, County Museum of Art, Futurism, 1961, no. 115

New York, Philippe Daverio Gallery, Futurism: 1911-1918, 1988, no. 17, illustrated in the catalogue


Maria Drudi Gambillo & Teresa Fiori, Archivi del Futurismo, Rome, 1962, vol. II, no. 69, illustrated p. 331

Daniela Fonti, Gino Severini, Catalogo ragionato, Milan, 1988, no. 136, illustrated p. 144

Catalogue Note

L'Autobus belongs to a pivotal group of charcoal drawings and paintings that Severini executed in late 1912 and early 1913 on the theme of buses and trains in movement, exploring the key concepts of Futurism: movement and speed. The dynamic collision of forms in L'Autobus represents the whirring energy of the modern metropolis, with the bus-driver and his machine at its heart. Severini has blended several visual idioms, from the boldly illustrative to the Cubist. The clearly definable sheen of silk top hat on the left contrasts with the near-abstract areas of richly applied charcoal on the right, whilst the whole arrangement is littered with lettering; from the masthead of a newspaper to streetsigns. The founders of Italian Futurism viewed dynamism, speed and light as the essential characteristics of modernity, and sought to celebrate the scientific and technological advances of the twentieth century (fig. 1). Paraphrasing Einstein in 1913, Gino Severini declared that 'speed has given us a new notion of space and time' and L'Autobus, executed in the same year, is an early example of the pictorial language he developed to communicate the bewildering sensations and experiences of modern life.

As the artist himself proclaimed: 'It has been my endeavour to produce by means of lines and planes the rhythmic sensation of speed, of spasmodic motion, and of deafening noise. The heavy vehicle pursues its headlong career from Montmartre to Montrouge along the crowded streets of Paris, dashing across the path of other motors, grazing their very wheels and hurling itself in the direction of the houses' (quoted in D. Fonti, op. cit., p. 141). With its vortex of abstract lines and prismatic forms, L'Autobus presents the high point of Severini's art, and demonstrates the virtuosity with which he achieved the Futurist ideal. Fascinated with the pace of modern life and excited by new technology, Severini's fellow Futurist Giacomo Balla found their perfect embodiment in the image of a speeding automobile (fig. 3). The two artists experimented with breaking up the image in a way that enabled them to translate the visual effect of movement on a two-dimensional surface.

The present work was included in a 1913 Futurist exhibition held in Berlin at Galerie der Sturm, which was instrumental in supporting the movement and spreading its acclaim outside Italy. In the spring of 1912 Galerie der Sturm organised the first exhibition of Futurist art ever shown in Germany, and one of the first of its kind outside Italy. Despite its low critical acclaim, the exhibition was extremely popular with the Berlin public, and was to play a crucial role in the artistic development of German Expressionism. Recognised from early stages as one of the key works in the artist's œuvre, L'Autobus was also included in Severini's first solo exhibition, held at the Marlborough Gallery in London in 1913.