About Luigi Russolo's Paintings

by Scott Thompson
Futurism was an early 20th century movement in Italian art and literature.

Futurism was an early 20th century movement in Italian art and literature.

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Luigi Russolo was an Italian Futurist composer and painter. Russolo is considered a forerunner of modern electronic music, as he theorized that 20th century music would be characterized by seemingly "unmusical" noises. Although Russolo was primarily a musician, he also made important contributions to modern painting both during his Futurist period and afterwards.


Luigi Russolo was born in the town of Portogruaro in the region of Veneto in 1885. Russolo's father was a church organist, and several members of the family were musicians, including Luigi. Russolo was prominent in both music and painting, and his radical theories about music affected his approach to painting as well. He became involved with the Italian Futurists, a movement that advocated an extreme embrace of modern technology and the destruction of all established cultural traditions.


Futurism was a radical movement in Italian art based on the idea that society should enthusiastically adopt all forms of modern technology and restructure itself around the machine. Futurists believed that all of the symbols and relics of traditional culture should be destroyed, including such things as museums and libraries. Futurist art emphasized technological themes; for example, Russolo's 1912 painting "Automobile in Corsa" depicts an idealized image of an automobile in bright, striking colors and sleek lines. His "Impressions of Bombardment" from 1926 depicts modern warfare using jagged triangles and red curves, while his "Lightning" from 1909 shows a modernized, industrialized cityscape.

Painting and Music

Luigi Russolo's theories about music can be seen reflected in his 1911 painting "Music," which shows a man -- perhaps a composer or simply a fan -- surrounded by colors and textures that stretch out around him in every direction. A stylized line curves around the center of the canvas. Two years later, Russolo published his manifesto "The Art of Noises" in which he argued for the incorporation of industrial sounds and other "noise" into music; he would later invent many noisemaking machines for this purpose.

Later Paintings

Despite Luigi Russolo's early embrace of Futurism -- which positioned itself as an enemy of classical art and culture in any form -- his later paintings were in a more realistic style he described as "classic modernism." These paintings did not emphasize the technological themes of the Futurists; instead, they were intended to portray an internal state of philosophical wisdom and serenity. Russolo's development as a thinker and a painter can be seen in this transition of themes and attitudes in his work.

Photo Credits

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