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Art and Music Connections

Music and Art

List of artists compiled by Judy Grochowski from Getty TeacherArtExchange posts.

  • In the 60s artists and musicians teamed up with dancers and theatre folk to create happenings. John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, Merce Cunningham and many others combined art-making and music making (or in the case of Cage, no music!). A fascinating time to look at how these collaborations set the stage for post modern art.

  • Earlier, at the turn of the new century, Picasso and Cocteau helped out with the ballets of Dagliev by creating costumes and sets and also helped express the "modern" music of operas.

  • Most recently, David Hockney has built magical sets for the opera, Mozart's Magic Flute and others.

  • Look into the watercolor works of Charles Burchfield. His interpretations of sky/cloud forms are based on his love and knowledge of music.

  • Kandinsky was extremely interested in the relationship between visual art and music- even naming his paintings with musical terms.

From the website:
"Mondrian arrived in New York in 1940, one of the many European artists who moved to the United States to escape World War II. He fell in love with the city immediately. He also fell in love with boogie-woogie music, to which he was introduced on his first evening in New York, and he soon began, as he said, to put a little boogie-woogie into his paintings."

Mondrian's aesthetic doctrine of Neo-Plasticism restricted the painter's means to the most basic kinds of line—that is, to straight horizontals and verticals—and to a similarly limited color range, the primary triad of red, yellow, and blue plus white, black, and the grays between. But Broadway Boogie Woogie omits black and breaks Mondrian's once uniform bars of color into multicolored segments. Bouncing against each other, these tiny, blinking blocks of color create a vital and pulsing rhythm, an optical vibration that jumps from intersection to intersection like the streets of New York. At the same time, the picture is carefully calibrated, its colors interspersed with gray and white blocks in an extraordinary balancing act.

Mondrian's love of boogie-woogie must have come partly because he saw its goals as analogous to his own: "destruction of melody which is the destruction of natural appearance; and construction through the continuous opposition of pure means—dynamic rhythm."

  • Tonight on PBS (KCPT in Kansas City) was a program created locally by Mary Kemper on a black artist named Fred Brown. I believe it was called "140 Wooster Street" after the address of his loft in New York. I found out that Fred painted the History of Art murals in the restaurant area of the Kemper Museum in KC. He painted numerous portraits of Jazz musicians. It is a program that you should see if it is shown in your area. (this from Woody in KC)

  • Not exactly music, but don't forget the way that Arthur Dove captured sound in "Foghorns"

  • Romare Bearden was greatly influenced by jazz and jazz musicians. Harlem Renaissance artists/musicians/writers were influenced by one another. The Africobra artists even borrowed jazz speak: "jampact jelli tite"
    John Dowell
    Moe Brooker
    John McDaniel
    Alan Olswing
    Elena Bouvier
    Adger Cowens
    E. Sherman Hayman
    Wadsworth Jarrell
    Janet Sullivan Turner
    Sam Gilliam
    Jeff Donaldson
    Michael D Harris

  • Don't forget about Grace Slick (Some critics say it isn't art, but I haven't seen her shows).

  • Degas, with themes of the ballet and opera.

  • Ocarinas- clay whistles in the shape of animals. Have you given thought to work that interacts with something or the viewer? Like wind chimes, bells, rainsticks or even using a material that makes sound when it rains or when the wind blows (outdoor sculpture)? Making a connection with indigenous peoples. That is probably very far from what you are thinking.

  • Jackson Pollack painted to Jazz.

I love to teach about Kandinsky in relation to his painting in musical terms. In fact, when Disney came to film my classroom two weeks ago, that was one of the lessons I highlighted because I love it so much.  However, my first graders just finished studying about Mondrian. This lesson can be adapted to any grade level: We specifically discussed his "Boogie-woogie Broadway" painting. The students discussed what the painting reminded them of, and yes!, they actually discovered it looked like city streets from standing on top of a building and looking down! I had them get up and do the "boogie-woogie", to jazz music, dancing around the room like New York city lights blinking.  Of course, my students have a frame of reference to Broadway because many have been there (only 30 miles from NYC).  They learned that Mondrian painted horizontal and vertical squares and rectangle rows of the primary colors (great elements for 1st grade), to show the city in an abstract way and in terms of music. This was a concrete way to show 1st graders the concept of "abstract", as well. Then, on 18"x18" (46 x 46 cm) white paper, glue sticks, and with lots of paper red, blue, yellow, and white squares and rectangles, my students created their own city in horizontal and vertical lines. They did this while listening to jazz.  (this from Susan on Long Island).


"During the past 45 years, New York Artist Phillip Schreibman has explored the visual expression of music in his powerful paintings, which bring the viewer into the COLOR and MOTION of MUSIC." the address is:


The only ones I am coming up with are Komar & Melamid (People's Choice Music) and Wassily Kandinsky. Info links are posted below for anyone is interested.

  • -Komar & Melamid

  • Romare Bearden - African American artist, collage was his most famous medium, was inspired by the Harlem Renaissance Jazz movement.  Many of his works were created/inspired by jazz music.  He actually wrote some music himself.  The musical Marsalis family recently created a jazz album for the Bearden exhibit at the National Gallery of American Art, all titles on the album are inspired by Bearden pieces.  There is a great teachers guide available on the site about Bearden

  • Wassily Kandinsky used to improvise his abstract paintings to music, I read that somewhere in my college days of art history studying.

  • Stuart Davis worked to Jazz music. Sound comes to mind when you view many of his works.