Bruno Caruso

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Bruno Caruso
Bruno Caruso painting at his Studio in Rome.jpg
Caruso painting at his studio in Rome, 2008
Bruno Caruso

August 8, 1927 (1927-08-08)
Palermo, Italy
DiedNovember 4, 2018 (2018-11-05) (aged 91)
Rome, Italy
Known forPainting, Etching, Graphic Design, Illustration and Writing
MovementItalian Neorealism, Social Realism
Spouse(s)Vivi Maggio
Partner(s)Lidia Olivetti
AwardsGold Medal, Italian Medal of Merit for Culture and Art, Commander, Order of Merit of the Italian Republic
ElectedAccademia di San Luca
Patron(s)Helena Rubenstein, Arthur Jeffress, Irene Brin

Bruno Caruso (Italian: [ˈbruːno kaˈruːzo]; 8 August 1927 – 4 November 2018[1]) was an influential Italian artist, graphic designer and writer[2] who spent much of his adult life working in Rome.

Caruso's work focused on the moral, political and ethical flaws of the 20th Century. He fought against influence of Sicilian Mafia in Italian politics, protested against the Vietnam War, campaigned against use of straitjackets in psychiatric wards, and championed the rights of Sicilian farmers in their battle for land ownership in the aftermath of World War II.[3]

Over the course of his career he created more than 25 collections of drawings, founded celebrated Sicilian cultural magazines, Sicilia and Ciclope, and illustrated works by Machiavelli, Kafka, Leonardo Sciascia, Giovanni Arpino and Giuseppe Ungaretti amongst many others.[4]

Caruso's work has ended up in the collections of notable 20th Century patrons of the arts, including Helena Rubenstein, Arthur Jeffress and Irene Brin.[5] In 1993 he was designated a 'commander' of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic,[6] and in 2001 he received the Gold Medal of Merit for Culture and Art from the President of Italy.[7] He was a member of the prestigious Accademia di San Luca.[8]

Life and works[edit]

Early life and education (1927-1948)[edit]

Il Cane/The Dog (1932) Ink Drawing textured with Needlepoint.

Bruno Caruso was born in Palermo, on August 8, 1927, to Giuseppe Caruso and Maria Cucco.[9] As a child he learned to draw under the tutelage of his father, mainly copying the work of classical masters like Leonardo Da Vinci, Pisanello and Andrea Mantegna.[10] His first collection of drawings was completed at age 5 (1931–32); a bestiary featuring 'Il Cane' (1932), a meticulously crafted drawing of a dog, textured by needlepoint (see image).

Caruso's early influences were the famous Orto botanico di Palermo and Monreale Cathedral, but as the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, Spanish Civil War and eventually World War II ignited, he turned his attention to depicting the horror and isolation of war. At age 19 he left Italy for the second time to visit Munich and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, where he was profoundly affected by the work of Gustav Klimt and George Grosz.

Immediately after the end of World War II, Caruso signed up to study Law at the University of Palermo. He earned a living by writing dissertations for exchange students, and claimed to have submitted over 100 successful papers during his time at the university.[11] Having completed his own Law degree, he began a second degree in Classics, but dropped out following a dispute over the faculty's decision to award an honorary degree to a notorious (but unnamed) Sicilian-American celebrity.[12]

In 1948 Caruso took his first trip to Prague where, confronted by the Nazi atrocities of World War II, he completed his first official collection entitled "Deutschland über alles", after George Grosz.[13]

Artistic Director, Editor and Graphic Designer[edit]

In 1953 Caruso received a commission from the Sicilian Government to create Sicilia, a magazine series celebrating Sicilian art and culture. As Artistic Director, Caruso was charged with setting up one of the first modern printing presses in Sicily, and forging strong relationships with artists, intellectuals and photographers from around the world, including Richard Avedon, Herbert List and Brassai.[14] In 1974 the magazine created a special edition in honour of Caruso, featuring a bespoke cover and 117 of his drawings.[15]

The early success of Sicilia caught the eye of Irene Brin and Gaspero del Corso, founders of the Galleria dell'Obelisco in Rome, a famous hub for Italy's artistic elite. Caruso became the director of the gallery's publishing arm and struck up close friendships with poets De Liberto, Giuseppe Ungaretti and Leonardo Sinisgalli, and painters Ben Shahn, Fabrizio Clerici, Colombotto Rosso and Renzo Vespignani.[16]

He also published the first books on The Triumph of Death (Palermo), Italian sculptor Giacomo Serpotta and German photographer Wilhelm von Gloeden.[17]

Breakthrough (1952-1956)[edit]

Caruso's association with the Galleria dell'Obelisco led to his first major solo show in 1953, followed by his first monograph in 1954, curated by Leonardo Sinisgalli. The collection made Caruso's name internationally, featuring what Sinisgalli labelled "a tiny universe of jugglers, sleep-walkers, acrobats, time-wasters, street urchins and craftsmen darting around cheerfully like fish caught in the net of a tragic, silent and unstable world",[18]

He had his first solo show in London at the Arthur Jeffress Gallery in 1955, and saw his work appear in the collections of celebrated patrons of the arts across the United States like Helena Rubenstein, Larry Aldrich, Richard Avedon, Walter Bareiss, Eric Estorick, Joan Whitney Payson, Stanley J. Seeger and John Hay Whitney.[19]

Political Drawings (1948 - 1973)[edit]

Reflection of Bruno Caruso photographing a guerilla fighter.

Back in Sicily, Caruso struck up a friendship with Girolamo Li Causi, leader of the Italian Communist Party, and began actively supporting the local peasant revolts. He completed a collection on the Portella della Ginestra massacre, and campaigned actively for the cultural emancipation of Sicily against the rise of the Mafia.[20] His fight against the endemic corruption in Italian politics climaxed in the 1970s when he was fighting three concurrent legal cases against Michele Sindona, Giovanni Gioia and Vito Ciancimino.[21]

Throughout the 1950s he worked at Palermo's Psychiatric Hospital (the Real Casa dei Matti di Palermo), producing a damning series of studies highlighting the use of medieval curing techniques and abject conditions in the wards, contributing to a major overhaul of the system.[22] He returned to this theme throughout his career in collections like Manicomio (1969) and La Real Casa dei Matti (1975).[23]

Over the following years Caruso travelled extensively to Iran, India, Thailand and Japan, studying Persian calligraphy and completing a series of drawings on dictatorships, famine, and the threat of nuclear warfare.[24] These drawings formed part of four collections; Il Pugno di ferro / The Iron Fist (1962); Pace in terra / Peace on Earth (1963); Totum procedit ex amore (1964); and La Tigre di carta / The Paper Tiger (1964).

He returned to the United States in the month of the Kennedy assassination, guest of Jack Levine, Tennessee Williams and Ben Shahn. On this trip he completed commissions for Time, Fortune and Life magazines and, inspired by a meeting with Malcolm X, began work on Americana (1968) in which he championed the Civil Rights Movement and stood against the Vietnam War.[25]

The fight against the Vietnam War became one of Caruso's most active political stands. He was invited to Hanoi by Phạm Văn Đồng, the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, and edited four books in support of their plight, including Vietnam: Biographia e documenti sull'aggressione imperialistica contro il popolo Vietnamita (1972). In 1972 he illustrated the last testament of Ho Chi Minh.

Death (2018)[edit]

Bruno Caruso's last drawing (2018). Pencil on paper. Completed in his hospital bed shortly before his death.

Bruno Caruso died on 4 November 2018 at the Regina Margherita hospice in Rome. He was 91 years old. Days before his death his son, Roberto Caruso, gave him a pencil and paper and, despite having refused to work for almost two years, he completed one final drawing; a melted, disfigured face (see image).[26]

Leoluca Orlando, the Mayor of Palermo, paid tribute to Caruso's career saying;

"The death of Bruno Caruso marks the disappearance of one of the most sensitive and committed figures in the artistic and cultural panorama of our city. A man whose unmistakable style always highlighted social issues, and gave voice to those who needed it most, right up until the last."[27]

Museum Collections[edit]


  • Premio Archimede, Archimedes Prize
    Palermo, 2003 "Honouring the most important Sicilians from around the world."[29]
  • Honorary Citizenship, City of Naro
    Naro, 2000 "The award of the honorary citizenship of Naro is based on Bruno Caruso's moral and artistic character."[31]
  • Honorary Degree in Letters and Philosophy, University of Palermo
    Palermo, 1986[35]

Key Collections[edit]

No. Title Author Publisher Date Location Details
1Deutschland über alles (Germany Above All)Bruno CarusoWeiss Buch1949Prague12 drawings in black & white
2Dalla calligrafia alla memoria (From Calligraphy to Memory)Bruno CarusoOlivetti1959Ivrea38 drawings in black & white and colour
3Pugno di ferro (Fist of Steel)Bruno CarusoLeonardo da Vinci1962Bari69 drawings in black & white
4Pace in terra (Peace on Earth)Bruno CarusoLeonardo da Vinci1963Bari56 drawings in black & white. Cover by Ben Shahn
5Tigre di carta (Paper Tiger)Bruno CarusoLeonardo da Vinci1964Bari16 drawings in black & white
6Totum Procedit Ex-AmoreBruno CarusoEdizioni dell'Elefante1964Rome8 drawings in black & white
7La mano dell'uomo (The Hand of Man)Bruno CarusoEdizioni dell'Elefante1965Rome14 drawings in black & white
8AmericanaBruno CarusoSocieta Gestione Riviste Associate1968RomeFolder containing 8 drawings in black & white
9Manoscritto sulle meraviglie della natura (Manuscript on the Marvels of Nature)Bruno CarusoBestetti1968Rome35 plates in fac-simile. Edition of 500 numbered & signed
10Manicomio (The Mental Asylum)Bruno CarusoEdizione della Colonna Infame1969Rome20 drawings in black & white. Edition of 100 with an original etching
11Repertorio Animalesco (Animalistic Repertoire)Bruno CarusoAlfani Editore1972Rome6 drawings in black & white and 24 colour panels and text by Elio Mercuri
12Disegni Siciliani di Bruno Caruso (Bruno Caruso's Sicilian Drawings)Bruno CarusoEdizione La Tavolozza1972Palermo37 drawings and text by Leonardo Sciascia
13La real casa dei matti (The Real Mental Asylum)Bruno CarusoDedalo Libri1975Bari46 colour drawings and an introduction by Franco Basaglia
14Bianco fiore (The White Flower)Bruno CarusoFederazione Comunista1975Palermo20 drawings in black & white
15Mitologia dell'Arte Moderna (The Mythology of Modern Art)Bruno CarusoFranca May Edizioni1977Rome117 drawings in colour

Key Monographs[edit]

No. Title Author Publisher Date Location Details
1Bruno CarusoLeonardo SinisgalliGalleria dell'Obelisco1954Rome27 drawings in colour and black & white
2Dipinti e disegni (1952-1955) (Paintings and Drawings (1952-1955))Libero BigiarettiG.Priulla Editore1955Palermo24 drawings and 18 colour panels
3Opera grafica di Bruno Caruso (Bruno Caruso’s Graphic Work)Peppe FazioZangara1958Palermo15 drawings and 14 colour panels
4I mafiosi di Bruno Caruso (Bruno Caruso’s Mafiosi)Renata UsiglioSalvatore Sciascia Editore1963Caltanissetta - Rome9 drawings in black & white
5Opera grafica di Bruno Caruso (Bruno Caruso’s Graphic Work)Elio MercuriSalvatore Sciascia Editore1966Caltanissetta - Rome58 prints in black & white
6Disegni di Bruno Caruso (Drawings by Bruno Caruso)Leonardo SciasciaCarte Segrete1968Rome42 drawings in black & white
7Galleria Magazine Number 1-2Elio MercuriSalvatore Sciascia Editore1969Caltanissetta - RomeSpecial edition dedicated to Bruno Caruso
8Bruno Caruso: 100 disegni (Bruno Caruso: 100 Drawings)Franco SolmiEdizione Galleria 321969Milan100 drawings in black & white
9Disegni politici di Bruno Caruso (Bruno Caruso's Political Drawings)Roberto GiammancoDedalo Libri1973Bari106 drawings in colour and black & white
10Disegni di Bruno Caruso (Bruno Caruso's Drawings)Dario MicacchiAlfani Editore1974Rome122 drawings in colour and black & white
11Sicilia Magazine N.74Bruno CarusoS.F Flaccovio Editore1974PalermoSpecial edition dedicated to Bruno Caruso, with 117 drawings
12Caruso: Dipinti (Caruso: Paintings)Enzo BilardelloEdizioni 321975Rome103 drawings in colour and black & white
13Il Fiore Rosso, Disegni politici (The Red Flower: Political Drawings)Mario de MicheliMastrogiacomo Editore1975Padua117 drawings in black & white
14Bruno CarusoEnzo BilardelloS.F. Flaccovio Editore1986Palermo265 drawings in colour and black & white
15Bruno Caruso: I Libri (Bruno Caruso: The Books)Leonardo La RoccaEdizioni La Rocca2003Palermo100 drawings in colour and black & white

Exhibitions (1950 - 1965)[edit]

  • 1951 — Palermo, Galleria Zabara: Sicilian Painters
  • 1951 — Palermo, Giovane Sicilia: Contemporary Painters
  • 1952 — Palermo, La Serenella: Bruno Caruso
  • 1952 — Palermo, Galleria Arcobaleno: Bruno Caruso
  • 1954 — Rome, Galleria dell'Obelisco: Joie de Vivre
  • 1954 — Rome, Galleria dell'Obelisco: Bruno Caruso
  • 1954 — Venice, Venice Biennale
  • 1954 — Rome, Galleria dell'Obelisco: 5 Painters, 5 Sculptors, American Federation of Arts
  • 1954 — Cincinnati, Cincinnati Museum of Modern Art: Young Italian Painters
  • 1954 — Wakefield, Wakefield City Art Gallery: Contemporary Italian Art
  • 1955 — US Tour, 20 Imaginary Views of the American Scene by 20 Italian Artists
  • 1955 — Rome, Galleria dell'Obelisco: Around the World
  • 1955 — London, Arthur Jeffress Gallery: Bruno Caruso
  • 1955 — Venice, Third Esso Prize
  • 1955 — Milan, Galleria del Sole: Paintings & Drawings by Bruno Caruso
  • 1955 — Rome, VII Rome Quadriennale
  • 1955 — Prato, 60 Masters for the Next 30 Years
  • 1955 — Minnesota, Weisman Art Museum: Contemporary Italian Art
  • 1955 — Sydney, L'Obelisco of Rome at David Jones
  • 1956 — Rome, Galleria dell'Obelisco: Bruno Caruso
  • 1956 — Zurich, Galerie H.U. Gasser: Bruno Caruso
  • 1956 — London, Tate Gallery: Modern Italian Art
  • 1956 — Turin, Galleria la Bussola: Bruno Caruso
  • 1956 — Venice, Galleria del Cavallino: Bruno Caruso
  • 1957 — Rome, Galleria d'Arte Moderna: In support of Exiled Hungarian Artists
  • 1958 — Palermo, Galleria Flaccovio: Bruno Caruso
  • 1958 — Milan, La Permanente: Young Italian Artists
  • 1958 — London, Arthur Jeffress Gallery: Bruno Caruso
  • 1958 — Rome, Galleria dell'Obelisco: Bruno Caruso
  • 1958 — Berlin, Akademie Der Kunst: Italienische Kunst Am XX Jahrhundert
  • 1958 — Paris, Galerie d'Art Moderne: Paris Biennale
  • 1959 — Lima, Pintura Italiana
  • 1959 — Rome, Galleria dell'Obelisco: Bruno Caruso
  • 1959 — San Francisco, Museum of Modern Art: Italy Three Directions
  • 1959 — Pisa, Contemporary Italian Graphic Work
  • 1959 — Paris, Galerie Rive Gauche: Bruno Caruso
  • 1959 — Pasadena, Pasadena Art Museum: 20th Century Art of Italy
  • 1960 — Parma, Galleria del Teatro: Bruno Caruso
  • 1960 — Rome, Galleria dell'Obelisco: Bruno Caruso, New York Drawings
  • 1961 — Rome, Galleria Chiurazzi: 7 works by Bruno Caruso
  • 1961 — São Paulo, Galleria Sistina: Bruno Caruso
  • 1961 — Modena, Sala Comunale: Bruno Caruso
  • 1961 — Genoa, Galleria San Matteo: Bruno Caruso
  • 1961 — Rome, Galleria dell'Obelisco: The Sculptures of Bruno Caruso
  • 1961 — Rome, Galleria Il Torcoliere: Bruno Caruso, Drawings, Etchings, Lithographs
  • 1961 — Rome, Galleria dell'Obelisco: Against Nazism
  • 1961 — Naples, Galleria Il Centro: Bruno Caruso
  • 1961 — Milan, Galleria la Colonna: Bruno Caruso
  • 1962 — Rome, Libreria al Ferro di Cavallo: Bruno Caruso, Pugno di Ferro
  • 1962 — Bologna, Galleria Bianco e Nero: Bruno Caruso
  • 1962 — Milan, Galleria Hoepli: Don't Forget
  • 1962 — New York, ACA Gallery: Italian Art Today
  • 1963 — Tokyo, Institute of Culture: Bruno Caruso and Franco Gentilini
  • 1963 — Rome, Galleria Don Chiscotte: Bruno Caruso
  • 1963 — Milan, Galleria Gianferrari: Bruno Caruso
  • 1963 — Bari, Galleria La Panchetta: Bruno Caruso
  • 1963 — New York, D'Arcy Gallery: Italian Drawing Today
  • 1963 — Alexandria, V Biennale of the Mediterranean
  • 1963 — Hamburg, Copenhagen: Junge Italienische Malerei
  • 1963 — Rome, Galleria Don Chiscotte: Masters of Italian Painting
  • 1963 — Rome, Galleria Sistina: Inauguration of 1963/64 Program
  • 1964 — Palermo, Arte al Borgo: Bruno Caruso
  • 1964 — Ferrara, Galleria Bigoni: Bruno Caruso
  • 1964 — Rome, ACA Gallery: Bruno Caruso
  • 1964 — Rome, Galleria Il Fante di Spade: New Italian Drawings
  • 1964 — Milan, Galleria 32: Caruso, Guttuso, Porzano
  • 1964 — Padua, Galleria Interni: Bruno Caruso
  • 1964 — Moscow, Exhibition of 6 Graphic Artists
  • 1964 — Rome, Galleria Penelope: Anthology of Drawings and Etchings
  • 1965 — Rome, Galleria Bianco e Nero: Bruno Caruso
  • 1965 — Milan, Galleria 32: Bruno Caruso
  • 1965 — Turin, Galleria l'Approdo: Paintings of Bruno Caruso
  • 1965 — Bari, Galleria la Panchetta: Graphic work of Bruno Caruso
  • 1965 — Caltanissetta, Graphic work of Bruno Caruso
  • 1965 — Rome, Palazzo delle Espozizioni: Quadriennale d'Arte
  • 1965 — Rome, ANPPIA: Anti fascism and Resistance
  • 1965 — Milan, La Permanente: Biennale di Milano
  • 1965 — Florence, Palazzo Strozzi: XVII National Exhibition, Fiorino Award
  • 1965 — Parma, The Scalarini National Award for Political Drawings


  1. ^[permanent dead link] Bruno Caruso. L’impegno civile e il racconto poetico del pittore
  2. ^ - Union List of Artist Names
  3. ^[permanent dead link] Caruso - Official Website
  4. ^ Bruno Caruso Antologia di disegni 1945-1995. Edizioni Nuova Tavolozza. 1995. p. 58.
  5. ^ Leonardo Sinisgalli (1954). Bruno Caruso. Rome: Edizioni dell'Obelisco. p. 6.
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Bruno Caruso, I Libri. Palermo: Edizioni Nuova Tavolozza. 1995. p. 76.
  10. ^ Bruno Caruso Antologia di disegni 1945-1995. Edizioni Nuova Tavolozza. 1995. p. 58.
  11. ^ Bruno Caruso, I Libri. Palermo: Edizioni Nuova Tavolozza. 1995. p. 77.
  12. ^ Bruno Caruso, I Libri. Palermo: Edizioni Nuova Tavolozza. 1995. p. 77.
  13. ^ Enzo Bilardello (1975). Caruso. Rome: Edizioni 32. p. 65.
  14. ^ Bruno Caruso, I Libri. Palermo: Edizioni Nuova Tavolozza. 1995. p. 77.
  15. ^ Sicilia N.74 special edition dedicated to Bruno Caruso. Palermo: S.F Flaccovio. 1974.
  16. ^ Bruno Caruso, I Libri. Palermo: Edizioni Nuova Tavolozza. 1995. p. 77.
  17. ^ Bruno Caruso, I Libri. Palermo: Edizioni Nuova Tavolozza. 1995. p. 77.
  18. ^ Leonardo Sinisgalli (1954). Bruno Caruso. Rome: Edizioni dell'Obelisco. p. 6.
  19. ^ Leonardo Sinisgalli (1954). Bruno Caruso. Rome: Edizioni dell'Obelisco. p. 12.
  20. ^ Bruno Caruso Antologia di disegni 1945-1995. Edizioni Nuova Tavolozza. 1995. p. 58.
  21. ^ Bruno Caruso I Libri. Edizioni Nuova Tavolozza. 1995. p. 78.
  22. ^ "Website". Archived from the original on 2019-04-28. Retrieved 2019-04-30.
  23. ^ Bruno Caruso Antologia di disegni 1945-1995. Edizioni Nuova Tavolozza. 1995. p. 58.
  24. ^ Bruno Caruso Antologia di disegni 1945-1995. Edizioni Nuova Tavolozza. 1995. p. 58.
  25. ^ Bruno Caruso Antologia di disegni 1945-1995. Edizioni Nuova Tavolozza. 1995. p. 58.
  26. ^ "Official Website"
  27. ^ "Palermo, addio a Bruno Caruso, il pittore dei ficus e dei matti"
  28. ^
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  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
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  35. ^