The longer I work as a classical music DJ, the more I find my eye gravitating instinctively towards music related visual art whenever I visit a museum. The Cleveland Museum of Art last week was no exception.
This terracotta bust of the 18th century opera composer Christoph Willibald Gluck is by Jean-Antoine Houdon, and it’s remarkable in the way that it avoids an idolized portrait to show Gluck, rather, with his pockmarked face, unkempt hair, and open collar. What makes this perfect is that Gluck was doing something similar in the way that he reformed opera by moving away from stylized presentations in his works — like Orfeo ed Euridice and Alceste — to bring simplicity and sincerity.
This hauntingly beautiful oil on canvas is by an artist I had not heard of before, American William Sidney Mount, who lived from 1807-1868. The painting is called The Power of Music, from 1847, and it’s set in rural Long Island before the Civil War. Although the love of music is universal, the white men here enjoy a performance of a fiddle player inside, while an African American laborer listens intently outside. They are separated by a barn door, and it’s a poignant visual presentation of racial division.
To lighten the mood, here is The Troubadour painted in oil on fabric by Honoré Daumier between 1868-73. He based it on the troubadour paintings of the French Rocco artists Jean-Antoine Watteau of the 1700s, but gave it the muscular immediacy that is so characteristic of his style.
The Cleveland Museum of Art is a work of art itself, and the “Building for the Future” renovation completed in 2013 is gorgeously done. Well worth a visit … and a return visit …
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