This exhibition was the first major retrospective to be devoted to that most enigmatic of Futurists, Luigi Russolo (1885-1947). A signatory of the ‘Manifesto of the Futurist Painters’ in 1910, Russolo is perhaps best known as a pioneering musician, his theory of the ‘art of noises’ a landmark in the history of avant-garde music. By contrast, Russolo’s pictorial work remains little-known, particularly that of his post-Futurist phase.
A respected printmaker in the early years of the twentieth century, Russolo experimented with Symbolism and Divisionism before aligning himself with the Futurist movement. Never feeling the influence of Cubism to the same extent as other members of the group, he pursued a singular artistic vision of the modern age, expressing its dynamism and violence through a personal vocabulary of strident colours and angular, radiating forms intended to evoke waves of energy.
Russolo’s experimental sound-making machines, the intonarumori, were also born of this fascination with the urban environment and a belief that ‘the machine has created such a variety and rivalry of noises that pure sound no longer arouses any feeling’. Tumultuous concert performances were given all over Europe including London’s Coliseum in 1914.
Following World War I, in which he was seriously injured, Russolo was the probable sole author of the manifesto ‘Against all Returns in Painting’, the tenets of which effectively established the aesthetic of the Novecento group. During the 1920s and ‘30s Russolo continued to be occupied with his musical experiments and pursued an interest in Oriental philosophy, yet continued to paint and exhibit. Having finally settled in Italy after spells in Paris and Tarragona, he composed his philosophical tract Beyond Matter and began a new and prolific phase of landscape painting that lasted until his death in 1947.