Thomas Wilfred

Associated person(s)
URLsArtist's page light art lumia (en)
Wikipedia (en)
Images Antique Light Art Brings the Northern Lights Indoors (en)
Review Conserving Thomas Wilfred’s Lumia Suite, Opus 158 (en)
Other Lumia: Thomas Wilfred and the Art of Light (en)
Document MoMA, Thomas Wilfred: LUMIA (en)

Solo exhibition2017 - 2018Lumia: Thomas Wilfred and the Art of LightSmithsonian American Art MuseumWashington, D.C. (US)
Group exhibition2007"Lucatta, Opus 162"Whitney Museum of American ArtNew York (US)
Project1964 - 1980"Lumia Suite, Opus 158"Museum of Modern ArtNew York (US)

Artworks in Collections
Museum of Modern ArtNew York (US)



Nyack, New York, USA

1930 - 1943

Research and teaching

Thomas Wilfred headed the Art Institute of Light, devoted to scientific investigation of the aesthetic possibilities of light.

1930 - 1943
1916 - 1922

Places of residence

New York, USA
In 1916 he emigrated to the United States and by 1919 had built a Clavilux. He gave the first public performance of his visual music in New York in 1922

1916 - 1922


He began to experiment with light as an abstract artistic medium.



Naestved, Denmark
Born as Richard Edgar Løvstrøm



Copenhagen / London / Paris, Denmark / Great Britain / France
Studied music and art

Studio Sunday: Thomas Wilfred    

By Dallas Jeffs  

This week’s Studio Sunday artist, Thomas Wilfred, is actually better known as a Danish inventor and musician. Wilfred lived in the early 1900s, during which time he created the inventions that would later make him known as the “father of multimedia.”

The son of a photography studio owner, Wilfred was interested in light throughout his life. The artist noted that light was a fundamental aspect of art, and that all artists work with light, whether their medium is painting, sculpture, or other. Wilfred, however, was the first to work with light projections, distilling light into a medium in its own right.

The artist created some of the first audiovisual performances by combining sound with light and color to create shimmering abstract images that changed while a song was being played. In the above photo Wilfred looks perhaps like an actor in a very old science fiction movie, but in fact the device is Wilfred’s Clavilux, an instrument of his own design that was part organ and part projector. While Wilfred pressed the keys to play certain notes, the machine would project undulating light forms like the ones shown in the bottom photo.

Wilfred’s studio, or, whatever he called his own workshop, must have not only looked interesting but sounded interesting. One doesn’t often think about the sounds of an art studio, but this is one case where the sound would be inextricable from every other aspect of the work. (13.05.2020)



Clavilux photo Clavilux 1920 Thomas Wilfred 
Lumia Suite, Op. 158 photo Lumia Suite, Op. 158 1963 Thomas Wilfred