Sheldon Museum of Art


Date of this Version



Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2006-2007


All images are copyright by the original artists. Publication copyright 2007 The Regents of the University of Nebraska


In the past 100 years music has played a tremendously important role in the stylistic development of visual art. It has created impetus and inspiration for those artists wishing to produce a pure and transcendental art form. Music has also been used as an analogy or metaphor in artistic expression. By listening to music and emulating it in their work, artists have discovered unconventional techniques in their art-making approach. Painting Music: Rhythm and Movement in Art explores the influence of music on the visual arts beginning in the early 20th century with the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky and continuing with the work of contemporary artists. While some works in the exhibition express characteristics of music and dance others reference a particular composer or style of music. Most of the exhibition is composed of nonrepresentational art reflecting its relationship with music and the belief that, like music, art is created from the depths of one's inner self and the purest way to express this is without recognizable imagery.

The music and art connection can best be described in the late 19th century concept of synaesthesia or the blending of senses. The idea means that sensory perception of one kind can manifest itself as a sensory experience of another. Color was considered a core element in sensory perception and in seeing color it has been asserted that one hears certain sounds. As with music, color can act directly upon the emotions.

In 1911 Kandinsky attended a concert by the Viennese composer Arnold Schoenberg, an event that became a turning point for the artist. Kandinsky was so impressed with the music that he began correspondence with Schoenberg and later invited the composer to exhibit art with a group of artists called Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider).