The Concert singer is an oil painting by Thomas Eakins, portraying the famous singer Weda Cook in her popular opera, Traviata. The work, completed in 1890 and initiated in 1890, was Eakins first full-length painting of a female singer. It has since been preserved at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The paintings of Cook have become popular as art reproductions, with their depictions of what can be seen behind the mask of concert singer. They portray aside to the original that had not before been touched upon and recognized. These early portraits of the woman behind the mask helped artists recognize and depict a different facet of the music instead of the traditional form sketched by hand. As time progressed, these same artists began to attempt to capture and record the sounds of music in a way that would make them more readily recognized. These early attempts sparked the career of many musicians who took the portrait to new levels of artistic achievement.
The early faces of the Philharmonic Society’s founding member, Anna Cleves Dent, are included among the many portraits of the concert singer from this era. The early faces of these two leaders represent the styles that were most prevalent in their day. For instance, Dent’s features are very slender with dark eyes, giving him the appearance of deep sleep. His hairline is recessed into a long thinning one, and his face appears much more dreamy than his actual appearance. It is reflected in his artwork, where his realistic portrayal of a waking Cleves brings to life the reflective qualities that the audience hears in his songs.
Thomas Edison’s painting of an early twentieth-century concert singer is also included that illustrates the concert singer’s evolution from his early days in Philadelphia up to his death in 1893 at the age of thirty-three. This famous painting represents the beginnings of Edison’s art transformation during his many years as a professional artist. His early efforts to depict the nouveau movement in fine art had failed miserably, and he needed to look for something different to bring the American dream to the public’s attention. As such, the nouveau movement became the centre point for his paintings as he searched for a medium to bring these visions to fruition.
Another portrait of an early twentieth-century Philharmonic Society member is that of the late Frankstein Meeks. Meeks’s contributions to society include commissioning of many pieces of art produced from the Philadelphia Museum of Art up to the present. His paintings of the musical group, which are included in the Collections of Music in the Master of Fine Arts Building, reflect the time’s musical tastes that helped define the modern era. Frankstein Meeks was an actual concert singer who enjoyed meeting and performing with some of the greatest minds of the day.
An intriguing and frequently hilarious portrait of the opening bars of an early twentieth-century New York Philharmonic Society is that of Lawrence Olivier. Although the opening bars of this painting may seem to be somewhat haphazardly thrown together, the result is anything. The image is, in fact, a study in form following function, as Olivier poses the viewer with a long and winding armchair as he sings the opening bars of the piece. The painter later pulls the chair back slightly to allow the listener a better view of each note as it glides through the keyboard. The painting thus provides a unique view of an essential event in early music that would not have been possible without the context of this early piano enthusiast’s work.