Painting and Music

Music has written itself into the history of painting in many ways. The principal means until well into the eighteenth century was through the visual representation of musical subjects and motifs. Yet artists also sought inspiration from music: they reflected the possibility of transferring formal principles and structural analogies from music to painting, and they drew theoretical assumptions from their comparisons of painting with its sister art. Reflections of this nature became more common throughout Europe from the end of the eighteenth century onward, reaching a climax in the debate about abstract painting that took place in the 1920s. In actual practice, artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Piet Mondrian mainly focused on reflecting individual aspects such as polyphony and color-sound relationships. During the course of the twentieth century, artists’ interest in music shifted from painting to new art forms (e.g., film, happenings, and new media).