In 1910, Giacomo Balla and four fellow Italian artists—Umberto Boccioni (1882–1916), Carlo Carrà, Luigi Russolo (1885–1947), and Gino Severini—wrote La Pittura futurista: Manifesto tecnico (The Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painters). In this document they rejected all previous art as prosaic. A key tenet of their philosophy was that creative expression should represent the dynamism of the early 20th century’s fast-paced Industrial Age. They declared, “All things move, all things run, all things are rapidly changing. . . . moving objects constantly multiply themselves . . . a running horse has not four legs, but twenty.” This sentiment is reflected in both the title and the composition of Dinamismo di un cane al guinzaglio (Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash).
Balla painted this amusing study of a skittering dachshund and the staccato steps of his or her owner in May 1912 while visiting one of his students, the Contessa Nerazzini, at Montepulciano, near Siena. The lively background, with its vibrating and contrasting streaks of pink and green, is said to represent the white dust of the Tuscan countryside shimmering under the bright summer sun. The feet of the woman, the leash, and the dog’s body from nose to tail are all blurred and repeated. To enhance the impression of speed, Balla painted the ground using diagonal lines and placed his signature and the date at a dynamic angle. This rhythmic gesture also extends to the frame, which both contains and continues the composition.