I See Music

You are invited to think about your senses, imagination and correspondences of arts with a little help from the selected objects from Fryderyk Chopin Museum.

By The Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Marta Tabakiernik (The Fryderyk Chopin Institute)

Walc Des-dur Chopina (21st Century) by Elżbieta WejsflogThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

How would it be to listen with our eyes or see with our ears? How would it be to find the colour of a sound, the sound of a line and the shape of a chord? 
Chopin was a man of many talents and a great sensibility to his environment. Listeners gave him many names, i.e. the poet of the piano or Ariel. He transported them into the imaginary spaces. This is also how the images inspired by Chopin’s music were created.  

Komposition till Pianokonsert nr 1 av F. Chopin (21st Century) by Elżbieta WejsflogThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

These images could be ephemeral like the blue tone described by George Sand, they could be completely specific, personal or even abstract. The selected artworks show how every artist finds his own way to actualize the correspondence of the arts in their works. You are encouraged to discover them and find inspiration for yourself. 

Polonez-Fantazja As-dur op. 61 (1845 - 1846) by Fryderyk ChopinThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Fryderyk Chopin, Polonaise-Fantasy in A flat major, Op. 61

Writing music is a way to visualize it. Modern graphic scores are displayed in art galleries as if they were distinct artworks. To interpret them musically requires competences of a composer – the making of sound and the musical process is less (or simply differently) determined then in the case of traditional notation. Yet the well-known notation of the Western music with notes on a staff also gives the performer a space for interpretation. Understanding of the originality and discretion depends on the convention of listening, the cognitive perspective that we choose towards the variable and repetitive elements of music. 

The Chopin manuscript that you see here is a testament of his creative process. It is only a sketch for the great masterpiece. The page is covered with lines and dots, a clear sign of struggling with a pen. It encourages us to read it differently. Dynamically painted lines and spots of ink on the musical staff resemble a modern graphic score. Let’s take the risk and engage in the experiment. Can we see new music notated on this page? 

Piano trio (20. Century) by Kazimierz ŚramkiewiczThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Kazimierz Śramkiewicz, Piano Trio

Kazimierz Śramkiewicz is an artist associated with the Polish Coast who developed a characteristic style, simplifying and synthesizing realistic pictorial themes. His works are characterized by expressive colors, versatile textures created with different techniques of paint application, geometrization of depicted elements. One of his favorite subjects, apart from the marine vistas, are music ensembles.

We don’t know whether the beige and grey work Piano trio is devoted to jazz or classical musicians. The artist depicted a concert as a closed setting, the composition of people, their instruments and their relations. All this elements are combined in a harmonious totality like a jigsaw puzzle.

Bust of Fryderyk Chopin Bust of Fryderyk Chopin (20. Century) by Janina BarcickaThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Janina Barcicka, Bust of Fryderyk Chopin

Janina Barcicka created monumental outdoor sculptures (i.e. in Mielec, Świdnica and Wałbrzych) as well as smaller works polished to the tiniest detail. She liked to explore musical and astronomical subjects that she closed in abstract forms. Music and cosmos are linked with the ideas of harmony and mystery that goes beyond mathematical and physical speculations. 

Bust of Fryderyk Chopin View 2The Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Her works astonish us playing with space, light and the material’s potential as well as the elegance and beauty. Some of them, including the bust of Fryderyk Chopin, are characterized by the displacement of some elements in regard to the axis. It is visible when you look at it en face. The wavy contour of Chopin’s face resembles another remarkably dynamic work of Barcicka entitled Ribbon that can be seen on the Kombatantów square in Świdnica. 

Bust of Fryderyk Chopin View 3The Fryderyk Chopin Institute

The transparent Chopin’s portrait can be particularly appreciated when seen from the side. The sculpted contour of Chopin’s face becomes a frame that remains empty. Perhaps this is a space of silence, or a deliberate incompleteness that invites the possibility of own interpretation. 

F. Chopin. Fanstasie View 2The Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Henryk Albin Tomaszewski, Chopin Fantasy

Henryk Albin Tomaszewski is a dean of the Polish glass art. He was fascinated with the music of Chopin, Tchaikovsky and Lutosławski. He employed a difficult method of hot glass forming that to some extent resembles musical improvisation: as a creative act ad hoc, influenced by emotions or internal impulse. 

F. Chopin. Fanstasie F. Chopin. Fanstasie (20. Century) by Henryk Albin TomaszewskiThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

The form of Chopin Fantasy is abstract. The glass climbs upwards creating a dynamic composition. The work’s surface catches reflections of light and its shape changes its character according to the perspective of the viewer. Glass is a remarkably subtle material just as Chopin’s pianissimo. It is also fragile which reminds us of the composer’s biography. 

The composition "Fantasie-Impromptus [sic] by Fryderyk Chopin. Dancer" (20. Century) by Danuta KwapiszewskaThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Danuta Kwapiszewska, Fantaisie-Impromptus of Fryderyk Chopin

Danuta Kwapiszewska was a dancer who had to forsake the art that was her greatest passion. She transferred the urge to create to the sculptures that she made after she lost the use of her legs. Her sculptures begun to ‘dance instead of her’. Her dancers made from wire, sheet metal, plastic or clay make a great impression. They seem as they were moving. Kwapiszewska had much better knowledge of dance and kinetics than most of the professional sculptors ever had. 

The artist found a very original path within her confines. She combined music, movement and sculpture in her very own idea of the ‘the dance of the oneness of place’. Since she cannot use her legs, she interpreted Chopin’s music dancing with her arms, head and body. The story of The Dancer from the Chopin Museum and other Kwapiszewska’s sculptures is a subject that demands to be remembered, an astonishing example of the power of the will as well as the overcoming of difficulties with the help of art. 

Concert at the monument to Fryderyk Chopin (20. Century) by Bogusław SzwaczThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Bogusław Szwacz, Concert under the Chopin's monument

The National Philharmonic in Warsaw during the Chopin Competition, The Fryderyk Chopin’s Birthplace in Żelazowa Wola and the surroundings of Chopin’s monument in Łazienki Królewskie are the most characteristic places cultivating the tradition of concerts with Chopin music. 

Bogusław Szwacz is better known from his abstract works through which he developed, using also musical categories, his idea of the art that moves imagination, what he called Ars horme.

The view of the surrounding of Chopin’s monument in Łazienki is different and quite afar from the modernist spirit, though one can easily find the echoes of postimpressionism. The means employed by the artist show that he wanted to capture the mood, the impression of holding the time, sinking into music, nature, meeting. 

The hierarchy of people is shifted. The listening women is more important than a distant pianist sitting at the piano. We don’t know whether the artist painted en plein air. The depicted figures lack details that makes this scene timeless, atemporal, everlasting.  

Till pianokonsert nr I – F. Chopin (21st Century) by Elżbieta WejsflogThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Elżbieta Wejsflog, Piano concerto no. 1

Elżbieta Wejsflog is a Polish painter living in Sweden. She is also an emigrant, just like Chopin, and she shares with him the experience of being far from home. She took a lot of inspiration from Chopin’s music as well as the music in general. Many of her works were created in the philharmonic hall in Malmö during the rehearsals, and sketches for other works were made during actual concerts. 

She says that the watercolor painting that she uses ‘thanks to its natural effusing, dissolving on the paper, transparency and the ability to quickly and delicately grasp a motive, a play of light, a brightness, wonderfully expresses music’. 

In her Piano concerto no. 1  the spilled blue color is dominating. This is perhaps the ‘blue tone’ described by George Sand in her description of one of the meetings of Chopin and Delacroix. The feeling of sinking into the azure was accompanying the listeners of Chopin’s improvisation that was inspired by the previous conversation about the reflection and chiaroscuro in painting. 

Studies for the painting Szopen [Chopin] Studies for the painting Szopen [Chopin], recto (1899) by Wojciech WeissThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Wojciech Weiss, study for the painting 'Szopen' [Chopin]

Wojciech Weiss during the years 1898 and 1899 intensely prepared to paint the painting entitled Szopen [Chopin] and left many sketches in different views (en face, side-face, in the entanglement of lines, focused on the movement of hands, with a female figure, drawn with a pencil, charcoal, also in color). He depicted the composer in a modernist way, breaking with national and romantic connotations, focusing on the expression, emotions and psyche.

Weiss said: ‘Just like music is a harmony of tones, painting is a harmony of colors that we also call tones’. Many things suggest that he might have been a synesthetic. In some of his works we can see a legend of colors linked to the sound pitches on the musical staff. Therefore, we can suppose that he also tried to ‘hear’ the Chopin’s portrait, that he wanted to depict it musically in the spirit of the synthesis of the arts. 

Maybe this is the reason why it appeared to be such a demanding and laborious task. Indeed, Chopin has many ‘faces’ and sounds. Although the final version of the painting is regarded to be lost, all the sketches that remain are autonomous artworks, unprecedented ways of looking at the composer. 

Fingerprint (21st Century) by Jagoda JanczakThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Jagoda Świątkiewicz, Traces of fingers

In 2015 the Fryderyk Chopin Portrait Competition for Young Artists was organized by the Chopin Institute. Many new images of the composer were created in response to the competition call, but also some abstract works occurred inspired by Chopin’s music, its structure and expression. 

Among such works we can see a jacquard by Jagoda Świątkiewicz. The marks of fingers left by the pianist on the keyboard create a new composition. We often forget about the sense of touch when we think about music. Yet, the touch influences the tone color of the piano. Mieczysław Tomaszewski, a famous Polish musicologist, emphasized the role of the aural-tactal control in Chopin’s pianism that he employed to achieve the most beautiful sound. 

The texture of fabric that we experience with touch is a concept closely related to musical texture, which describes the ‘surface’ of a musical work, the resultant of its other elements such as rhythm, harmony, melody and the leading of voices. 

Landscape with a bridge (19th Century) by Fryderyk ChopinThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Fryderyk Chopin, Landscape with a bridge

Young Chopin’s drawings remind us of his romantic nature and his many talents. We often emphasize that his talents were not only musical, but also literary, theatrical and artistic. He developed this talent in his childhood, when together with his sisters he created rhymed child-made cards for parents or theatrical scenes. 

Despite the conventionality of subjects among which we can find a landscape, a castle ruins and a genre scene, Chopin’s drawings charm us with precision and astonish the music-lovers that admire his musical output. 

They remind us also about the fact that at the time were there were no cameras drawing was a common ability. They can also give us interesting insight into Chopin’s life. 

Credits: Story

Marta Tabakiernik (The Fryderyk Chopin Institute)

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Chopin Forever
View theme
Google apps