Music Themes in American Art


This section of the Traditional Fine Arts Organization (TFAO) catalogue Topics in American Art is devoted to the topic "Music Themes in American Artt." Articles and essays specific to this topic published in TFAO's Resource Library are listed at the beginning of the section. Clicking on titles takes readers directly to these articles and essays. The date at the end of each title is the Resource Library publication date.

Following online resources is information about offline resources including museums, DVDs, and paper-printed books, journals and articles. We recommend that readers search within the TFAO website to find detailed information for any topic. Please see our page How to research topics not listed for more information.


(above: Stacy Tolman, The Musicale, c. 1887, oil on canvas, 36.2 x 46 inches, Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)


Articles and essays from Resource Library in chronological order:

Ken Butler: Hybrid Visions (5/29/08)

San Francisco Psychedelic (2/21/07)

Picturing the Banjo (12/8/05)

Syncopated Rhythms: 20th-Century African American Art from the George and Joyce Wein Collection (11/14/05)


Striking the Right Notes: Music in American Art (11/3/05)

Community of Strings: Regionally Crafted Stringed Instruments; article by Joe LoMonaco (11/3/05)

Rock On! (5/10/05)


Rock On! The Art of the Music Poster from the 60s and 70s (1/21/04)

Feelin' Groovy: Rock and Roll Graphics, 1966-1970 (5/20/03)

The Art of the Music Poster of the 60s and 70s (5/8/03)

High Society: Psychedelic Rock Posters of Haight-Ashbury (4/5/02)


Lyrical Visions: Music and Dance in American Art (9/14/00)

Aaron Copland's America (8/12/00)

Jazz: An American Muse (3/9/00)

William Sidney Mount: Music Is Contagious! (1/18/00)


(above: William Merritt Chase, The Mandolin Player, 1879, oil on canvas, 16.25  x 12.25 inches, Private Collection. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)


From other websites:

Album Cover Art Gallery from the Tralfaz Archives Music Department. Accessed August, 2015.

"ART VIEW; Black Musicians in Art: Stereotypes and Beyond" by Michael Brenson, from New York Times, August 14, 1988. Accessed August, 2015.

Esther Williams, Art and Music by David Fienen and Donald Myers from Gustavus Quarterly, Hillstrom Museum of Art. Accessed August, 2015.

For the Record: Artists on Vinyl is a 2019 exhibit at the Cranbrook Art Museum which says: "For the Record: Artists on Vinyl mines a unique vein of creative expression, the design of the record album cover and the use of phonographic recordings by artists as a vehicle for creative expression."  Accessed 1/20

Fredrick Brown:The Jazz Paintings was a 1997 exhibit at the Sheldon Museum of Art which says: "In addition to featuring a selection of recently completed paintings of jazz performers, Frederick Brown: The Jazz Paintings offers a broad cross section of the work of one of the most eclectic and aesthetically diverse African-American painters working today."  Viewers may download the exhibition brochure. Accessed 1/17

"Hung Up: The State of Rock Poster Art" by Stacey Brook, November 10, 2008, Accessed August, 2015.

Jason Moran is a 2019 exhibit at Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University which says: "World-renowned jazz pianist and composer Jason Moran is also a visual artist whose fascinating work explores the interplay between objects and sound, sculpture and stagecraft."  Accessed 6/19

Morrison Hotel Gallery, a major brand in fine art music photography. Accessed August, 2015.

The Art of the Music Poster of the 60s and 70s, from Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art online catalogs page.

On Another Note: The Intersection of Art and Music is a 2017 exhibit at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum which says: "Through the artists' explorations, On Another Note: The Intersection of Art and Music hopes to broaden the viewer's perception of how music can inspire the making of art as well as to open them to the vast variety of ways in which it can be made visual. Also see press release Accessed 1/18

Perfect Harmony: The Musical Life and Art of William Sidney Mount  is a 2018 exhibit at the Long Island Museum which says: "A new exhibition, Perfect Harmony, re-explores the confluence of Mount's music and art through nearly 25 oil paintings, pencil drawings, and fascinating objects, such as a trompe l'oeil music stand that the artist carefully painted the sheet music of early American folk tunes on." Accessed 7/18

Storied Strings: The Guitar in American Art is a 2022 exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts which says: "Strummed everywhere from parlors and front porches to protest rallies and rock arenas -- the guitar also appears far and wide in American art. Its depictions enable artists and their human subjects to address topics that otherwise go untold or under-told." Accessed 1/23

Tarek Atoui: The Whisperers is a 2022 exhibit at at the The Contemporary Austin which says: "On the second floor (of the building), Atoui presents The Wave, an accumulation of projects he developed throughout the last decade, including WITHIN (2012-16), The Reverse Sessions / The Reverse Collection (2014-16), and The Ground (2017-18). Each project generated a series of custom instruments, which Atoui designed with teams of collaborators to explore specific questions. Developed together with Deaf and hard of hearing communities worldwide, the WITHIN instruments explore the relationship between sound and deafness and engage listening through the whole body."  Accessed 6/22

Timothy Duffy: Blue Muse is a 2019 exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art which says: "Timothy Duffy creates one-of-a-kind direct positive tintype portraits of American musicians using an American photography process that goes back to the nineteenth-century."  Also see artist's website.  Accessed 7/19

Visual Clave: The Expression of the Latino/a Experience through Album Cover Art: 1940-90  is a 2019 exhibit at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, University of Oregon which says: "Throughout the exhibition, individual album covers are juxtaposed with their original art, often made by New York-born and based designers from the "golden age of salsa" (late 1960s-'70s)."  Accessed 9/19


(above: Norman Rockwell, The Love Song, 1926. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)


Online videos

The WGBH/Boston Forum Network is an audio and video streaming web site dedicated to curating and serving live and on-demand lectures, including a number of videos on Art and Architecture. Partners include a number of museums, colleges, universities and other cultural organizations. See listings of related videos in this catalogue indexed by partner name. Palmer Museum of Art partnered with the WGBH Forum Network for Banjo-Wielding Women, (57 minutes) a lecture by Leo G. Mazow, curator, American Art, Palmer Museum of Art in which he discusses the many female banjoists that appear in myriad American paintings, photographs, illustrations, and advertisements through history. [September 19, 2006] Accessed May, 2015.

Sympathy for the Devil [4:45] video from Chicago Tribune, October 11, 2007. Chicago Tribune says: "Chicago"s Museum of Contemporary Art's new exhibit, "Sympathy for the Devil: Art and Rock and Roll Since 1967 is debated by Tribune's music critic Greg kot and art critic Allen G. Artner." Accessed August, 2015.


DVD/VHS videos:

Frame After Frame: The Images of Herman Leonard. (1998) Documentary profile of photographer Herman Leonard. This documentary was produced and directed by Tika Laudun for Louisiana Public Broadcasting. Louisiana PTV, 7733 Perkins Road. Baton Rouge, LA 70810.



Cassidy, Donna M. Painting the Musical City: Jazz & Cultural Identity in American Art, 1910-1940. Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997

Farren, Mick. Get on Down: A Decade of Rock & Roll Posters. London: Big O Publishing, 1976.

Grushkin, Paul D. Art of Rock: Posters from Presley to Punk. New York: Abbeville Press, 1996.

Medieros, Walter. San Francisco Rock Poster Art. Exhibition catalogue. San Francisco: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1976.

Off the Wall: Psychedelic Rock Posters From San Francisco. Amelie Gastaut, Jean-Pierre Criqui editors. Thames & Hudson, 2005.

Molon, Dominic et al. Sympathy for the Devil: Art and Rock and Roll Since 1967. Chicago: Yale University Press, 2007.


(above: Theodore Robinson, At the Piano, 1887, oil on canvas, 16.5 x 25.2 inches, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 1929.6.90. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)


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