Woman at the Piano

Frederick John Schwankovsky
Woman at the Piano
Oil on canvas, 1920
26 x 20 1/4 inches
Gift of the artist

Frederick Schwankovsky’s family operated a music business, and the importance of music within Schwankovsky’s art is evident in Woman at the Piano. (His wife was a pianist, and it is likely that it is she depicted.) In this painting, he integrates spirituality and aesthetics, producing a dynamic and dream-like image. Here he combines his interest in the figure and in still life, which he called “the chamber music of art.” Dominating the foreground is a large, star-like flower that radiates upward and across the woman’s face. The flower and the figure have equal weight in the composition, a reflection of Schwankovsky’s interest in Theosophy, whose tenets included the belief that human consciousness is able to comprehend the fundamental similarities between very disparate things, whether infinitely large or infinitely small. Engulfing the piano player, the flower acts as a visual manifestation of the music, its bright and fiery tendrils connecting the meditative woman with a world unseen.