Artists, guided by their eagerness to create, have represented almost everything: history, landscapes, portraits, even still life. However, it is curious how many painters, from different artistic periods, have shown a special interest in the topic of music and shaped it into countless works. In many cases, music has been represented from an extremist point of view, linked to religion or associated to sin, desire and lust.
Even when the differences are obvious – music and painting flow through different senses: hearing and sight – the connection between both disciplines exists since the beginning of times. In Ancient History, men tried to represent, through their cave paintings, the rhythm of rituals and the beating of drums. Performing musicians have been shown in Egyptian tombs, Greek pottery, and bas-reliefs from Mesopotamia. This makes us believe that plastic artists have always felt attracted to the magic of such a different world – a world ruled by sound, rhythm and harmony- and so have tried to capture such elements on canvas.
Instruments have always been a source of inspiration. Some of them are a piece of work merely by their designs and that is something that doesn’t escape from the sight of an artist. Renaissance, to name a period, has some exceptional paintings from Leonardo Da Vinci (who created some instruments), Ércole de Roberti, Bartolomeo Passerotti, Tiziano Vecellio; and the same can be said of periods such as Tenebrism (Baroque) and Rococo, or the expressionism of Josef Michnia. There are still-lifes from baroque Italian painter Evaristo Baschenis. And, in Holland, a bunch of artists painted instruments with clocks, books, skulls, because music – according to their perception – represented the passage of time.
The guitar, one of the most popular instruments; the violin, with its beautiful reddish tone and its curves; the flute, even though the simplicity of its design and antiquity, has an infinite number of variations; and the harp, considered one of the most beautiful instruments in the world, they’re the most represented ones.
So where does the admiration for musicians and their instruments come from?
When something or someone is worthy of admiration it’s because it has positive attributes or notable properties that create a great impact within us. To admire, implies a contemplative posture – “to contemplate” from latin contemplari: “to stare” – which is oriented to the recognition of mystery, the greatness of men and the world that surround us.
However, for artists, the capacity to admire comes with a philosophical implication (according to Aristoteles, philosophy itself is born out of admiration). It allows artists to dive into these especially moving topics, and justify their curiosity by exploring the unknown.
Amazement, which is born out of admiration, implies to evade ourselves, to feel ourselves “suspended” and able to pay attention to those who masterfully do something. And that’s what happens with the musical experience. Perhaps modern men have lost the capacity to admire and that’s why it has become so hard to feel deeply moved by things beyond its use and reason. Fortunately, these “Odes” – as an exalted, impassioned admiration – prevail as an eternal tribute to those who have given so much beauty to the world and to remind us that (and beyond any circumstances) life can also be celebrated through the acknowledgment to the others.