Those Who Stay

Umberto Boccioni, study for "Those Who Stay"

On my last trip to Milan, a local friend suggested that I visit the Museo del Novecento which is located just a few steps from the Duomo. So I did, and I highly recommend it to anyone that would like to spend a few hours looking at some wonderful 20th century works of art. It’s also a beautiful building, with an interesting layout that includes a winding climb and lots of escalators. In fact, the building’s layout was so interesting that I had to get help a few times from the kind security people on a couple of the floors (but what else is new?).

One piece that stopped me in my tracks (causing me to hover around it for so long that I drew attention from the security people) is this one titled Those Who Stay by Italian artist Umberto Boccioni. It’s sort of one of three pieces that make up the series titled States of Mind about parting ways at a train station. And when I say “sort of” it’s because this is actually a study and not the finished version of Those Who Stay, but I like it better. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Futurist movement as much as the next guy with all of those geometric shapes and Cubist flavor, but this one seems much more compelling to me for a specific reason: it oozes heaviness and sadness. The other two pieces in the States of Mind series are titled Those Who Go and The Farewells.

The reason I’m drawn to this painting is because I’ve always hated goodbyes, and I think it captures that sadness completely. I’m talking about final goodbyes and the emptiness you feel when your loved one is no longer in this world. For me and a lot of other people, the loss of a pet has the same heart-ripped-out pain and devastation and the only thing that helps me heal is to remember that I’m not alone in this. In this painting, all of the left behind streaky figures share the sadness of loss and goodbye together. It’s amazing how art can affect you that way whether you like it or not, pulling you headfirst into a sea of emotion with a language of its own, but without any words. Like a sad, sad song that matches just the way you feel inside, you can gaze into a painting like this whenever you need to and just feel sad because you must.

One of my dogs isn’t well. His name is Nicholas, and I haven’t featured him on the blog yet because he’s been declining since I started it in July and it’s just been too hard. I don’t know how long he has left, I don’t think there’s anything else I can do, and I’m facing that awful decision. But one thing I do know is at some point I will be spending a lot of time gazing into Boccioni’s Those Who Stay.

Visit Museo del Novecento.
This link will take you to MoMA’s Collection page, where you can see the Boccioni series (click NEXT when you get there to see all three paintings in sequence).
A good article on Umberto Boccioni can be found here.

10 thoughts on “Those Who Stay

  1. I love Boccioni and I found your feenling about that draft definitely appropiate. You are right about Museo del 900 It is really worth a visit, even if it costs a long line (Do you rember my post “Amici di mostre?” the line portrayed there is for Museo del 900 and now tha U have been there You understand how long was this line [ ]). I also understand the concern about your pet, just yesterday my 22y old cat passed away.Even if this is sad, on the other hand me and my family stay with what this cat gave to us in all these 22 yrs in terms of affection and “family building”. And you know what ? His name was Novecento (900), because he was found on a stret and we decided to name him after the story “Novecento” by alessandro Baricco (

    • Thank you so much for your comments, the coincidences between our situations were very touching and brought some tears of happiness. I am very sorry about the loss of your special cat just a day or two ago, and it is so nice that you can be stronger by remembering the gifts he gave to you and your family. I read the other day the expression that goes something like “don’t be sad because it’s finished, just smile because it happened.” I think that view will also help me. And how interesting that your post was about the line at Museo del Novecento! When I was there they had no line at all! I thought to myself, how sad that no one is visiting this museum! The day that I was there was a Saturday in October of last year. I am currently planning to spend some time in Milan next month, hoping that I don’t have to cancel my trip. If I visit Museo del Novecento again and see this Boccioni, you might hear on the news about the American woman who had to be removed from staring at “Those Who Stay”! Also thank you for the Baricco story, I will read about it.

    • Thank you for your kind words, and yes you are right. The time they are with us is so very short. WIth Nicholas, he’s suffering from dementia and that’s something I haven’t experienced before with a dog. But the ear scratching seems to still get through to him, so he’s getting lots of that.

  2. The painting really haunting, in a good way. It stays with you, as all things that matter do.
    I hope Nicholas stays with you as long as he can, in life and beyond!

  3. Powerful refraction of life through art. I hope you will get a chance to feature Nicholas, when you’re ready. Please pass on a few extra ear scritches or tummy rubs or whatever he loves best, from this stranger.

    • Thanks, M.C. Ear scritches and tummy & chest rubs seem to be the favorites, I’ll be sure to give him a few extra from you. I’ll definitely feature him at some point, but for now I can tell you he’s an Oakland dog :-) . He’s having a lovely nap right now, even if it is Benadryl-induced, so I’m grateful for that.

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