Artists Inspired by Music
By Tanya Singh

“Whenever man had desire for heavenly intoxication he turned to music, yet color is just as capable as music with providing us with ecstasies and delights.” – Stanton Macdonald Wright

Essentially parallel art forms, music and art have a very interesting artistic relationship. How often have we heard artists saying that they cannot begin a painting without some music on in the background?

From Georges Seurat who extensively wrote about the relationship between music and art to John Cage who was a music composer, as well as a conceptual artist – both of these forms of visual and performing arts, have produced a number of beautiful collaborations in the past.

Here are some artists that were greatly inspired by music in creating their works.

Three Musicians

Pablo Picasso

Hanging in the Museum Of Modern Art, New York, Three Musicians is considered one of Picasso’s greatest masterpieces. The composition depicts three musicians in the artist’s typical cubist style with a twist of bohemian life.

The figures represented are supposed to be Picasso himself along with two of his friends, Max Jacob and Guillame Apollinaire playing the flute, the guitar, and the accordion respectively. One of his earlier works, the painting has an intricate puzzle-like composition, almost as complex as classical music.

Composition 8

Wassily Kandinsky

The renowned Russian painter, Wassily Kandinsky was known for producing works that were closely related to musical compositions. He used colors and forms to represent sounds and tones. Even the titles of his works were chosen as if he were naming musical compositions.

Inspired by a romantic opera, Lohegrin, written and composed by Richard Wagner, Composition 8 is now a part of the permanent collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Music, Pink And Blue No. 2

Georgia O’Keefe

Although popularly known for her flower bud paintings, Georgia O’Keefe’s earlier works were greatly inspired by music or “the idea that music could be translated into something for the eye”, as she once said. This particular work, now at the Whitney Museum of Art, New York, speaks of her profound interest in translating music into a visual form.

This painting is almost like a previous version of one of her feminist flower bud paintings but only more lyrical and poetic. The way the colors harmonize together is truly marvelous.

Harmony In Pink And Grey: The Portrait Of Lady Meux

James Abbott McNeil Whistler

One of the most accomplished American portrait painters of the eighteenth century, James Abbott McNeil Whistler actually worked on a number of series of portraits that he characterized as ‘Harmonies,’ ‘Nocturnes’ and ‘Arrangements.’

He found a parallel between the art forms of visual art and music within the concept of tonal harmony. Even his most famous painting, popularly known as Whistler’s Mother, was originally titled Arrangement In Grey And Black No. 1.

Cosmic Composition

Paul Klee

The son of a music teacher, Paul Klee was also a talented violinist apart from being a prolific painter. Naturally, he drew analogies between visual art and music and strived to create a sense of harmony and musical flow in his paintings.

The expressionist painter created a number of works that were inspired by music or rather the essential composition of music, which he understood so well being a musician himself.

Image Courtesy:
Image 1: Museum of Modern Art
Image 2: The Guggenheim Museum
Image 3: Whitney Museum of American Art
Image 4: The Frick Collection
Image 5: WikiArt












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