Tag Archives: artists

Painter Inspired Lyrics

Artists take their inspiration from a variety of sources, the play of light on water, a dramatic street scene or a simple collection of household items. What about painters themselves? Has their work ever caused a musician to pick up their pen and write a lyric extoling a particular artist?


Starry Night

The two obvious ones that spring to mind are Vincent (Starry, Starry Night) by Don Mclean waxing lyrically as he sings “paint your palette blue and grey”.

Then Brian and Michael wrote the familiar (at least to my generation) “Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs” in 1978. The song is a tribute to the painter L.S. Lowry who famously painted matchstick figures in his pictures.

Matchstalk Men

Matchstalk Men

One of the most comical composers between the 1970s and 1990s was the talented Neil Innes who has many credits to his name and worked on such programs as Monty Python and The Rutles, a take off of the Beatles. After having studied fine art at Goldsmiths in the 1960s it’s no surprise that he penned “Cezanne Says Anne” a musical tale of a girls love of the painter. “I like Cezanne, says Anne” while listing Renoir, Modigliani, Rembrandt, Bruegel, Botticelli, Ernst and Braque. As the song says, surreal.

Botticelli gets another mention by Joni Mitchel in “The only joy in town” and the Counting Crows’ “When I dream of Michelangelo” talks of the masters painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Continuing inside, The Manic Street Preachers pay homage to Willem de Kooning in “Interiors”.



Jay Z has listed a number of artists in his lyrics, Picasso first in “Friend or Foe”. In the 2013 album “Magna Carta” he titles the painter in “Picasso Baby” where his list includes references to Rothko, Koons, Condo, Bacon, da Vinci, Basquiat and  Warhol. Although, rather than being inspired by the artists canvas, merely talks of his desire to own their works, seemingly for their status and worth, rather then their artistic merits.

Probably one of the most mentioned artists is unsurprisingly Andy Warhol and his pop culture art and 15 minutes of fame quote have ensured he is not forgotten. Along with Jay Z; David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Paul Simon and lesser known acts XV, Lousy Robot, Yo La Tengo all refer to Warhol.

Chagall and Fish

Chagall and Fish

Salvador Dali is one of the most recognised names from the art world and Kate Bush talks of a gallery owning Signora Dali, while even Kanye West is aware of the artists melting images in his song “Mercy”. Meanwhile in Todd Rundgren’s song “Just Another Onionhead, Dada Dali”, he paints a musical picture worthy of the Surrealist artist’s canvases.

I started out with a few songs in mind but have discovered that hidden away in the back catalogues and rarely listened to tracks are many references to famous artists. Not all the tracks are good or well known, a number of the artists like Weepies who sing about a Chagall painting are completely unknown to me. However, it’s nice to find that artists are still inspiring musicians and in turn creating more great works.

Your turn!……….. What have I missed? 😀

Painting the Medieval Landscape

Late Byzantine

Late Byzantine Fresco

Up until the 14th century there was little, if any, representation of the countryside and its buildings in frescoes. Vegetation and architectural features were just used to decorate the borders of the religious panels.


Lorenzetti 1285 – 1348

There were early renditions of landscape by Giotto and Lorenzetti around the 13th century but in the 1400s Protestant artists in the Netherlands, free from the constraints of a papal paymaster, were able to explore natural representation.

van eyck

Van Eyck 1395 – 1441

Artists like Van Eyck and Brughel started to hint at the luscious landscapes around them in the backgrounds of their paintings. The northern European art was soon to influence Italians, Massacio and della Francesco and landscapes began a common theme in the frescoes of the Mediterranean.

It is claimed by many that the landscapes of the late Byzantine and early Renaissance periods were fantasy or symbolic representations of real locations. Over time landscapes change, new buildings appear, trees are felled and roads constructed. However, what we can see in these old master’s pictures are elements of today’s scenery in their images.


Fra Angelico 1395 – 1455

There is a familiarity to the gentle curving hills, the many tall trunked trees and the aimlessly winding, tracks. There is also the blue Renaissance sky and the verdant greenery of the area, particularly around the valleys of the Tiber. Here Perugino, Signorelli, Raphaelo, and Michaelangelo all lived and worked, recording life and the surroundings.

Before this time nature had been relegated to the role of decorative foliage. Now though, the hills, forests and rivers played the part of a painted stage on which the artist’s characters acted out their stories.


Gozzoli 1420 – 1497

One of the grandest of these is Benozzo Gozzolio’s enormous series “The Magi’s Procession” painted from 1459 to 1461. It testifies to the new importance placed on the landscape in the artist’s designs. The journey, is as familiar today as it was then and anyone who has walked around the countryside of central Italy will immediately feel at home.

In these frescoes you can see the artists discovering and inventing the conventions of perspective used today. As they battled with the notion of creating three-dimensional spaces, the rules about vanishing points, size difference and colour degradation were all experimented with in representing distance.


Masaccio 1401 – 1428

It is with the founding of these rules that the great landscapes of the 18th and 19th centuries would later be painted by Gainsborough, Canaletto and Turner. However, despite their simplicity there is an innate charm about them and a beautiful clarity about the world around.

Other noteable artists of the age –

Konrad Witz 1400 - 1446

Konrad Witz 1400 – 1446

  • Giotto 1267 – 1337
  • Fillippo Lippi 1406 – 1469
  • Paolo Uccello 1395 – 1475
  • della Francesco 1415 – 1492
  • Botticelli 1445 – 1510
  • Bosch 1450 – 1516
  • Brughel the Elder
  • Ghirlandio 1449 – 1494
  • Signorelli 1450 – 1523
  • Perugino 1448 – 1523
  • Dieric Bouts 1415 – 1475
  • Van der Weyden 1399 – 1464