The similarity between painting and music was one of the great preoccupations of the late nineteenth century. The French Symbolists, English artists such as Albert Moore and Frederick Leighton, and Americans such as Whistler and Thomas Dewing all featured the subject of young women playing instruments and listening to music. Alexander’s rich orchestration of the friezelike composition, with its languid poses, fluid brushwork, and careful color modulation, masterfully evokes their ethereal experience.
Artist John White Alexander, American, 1856-1915
  • Panel for Music Room
Date 1894
Medium oil on canvas
Dimensions Unframed: 37 × 77 3/4 inches (94 × 197.5 cm)
Framed: 50 1/2 × 90 3/4 × 3 inches (128.3 × 230.5 × 7.6 cm)
Credit Line Founders Society Purchase, Beatrice W. Rogers Fund, Dexter M. Ferry, Jr. Fund, Merrill Fund, and Eleanor and Edsel Ford Exhibition and Acquisition Fund
Accession Number 82.26
Department American Art before 1950
On View American W285, Level 2 (see map)
Signed Signed and dated, lower left: J.W.A. 94
Inscriptions Label, on back: Panel for Music Room | (owner) Mrs. John W. Alexander
Mrs. John White Alexander;
her granddaughter, Irina A. Reed (New York, USA);
Graham Galleries (New York, New York, USA);
1982-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)

The Quest for Unity: American Art Between World's Fairs 1876-1893. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1983, no. 27.

Burns, Sarah. "Review of The Quest for Unity: American Art Between World’s Fairs, 1876-1893." Art Journal (Spring 1984): pp.75-76 (ill.).

Springer, Julie Anne. "Art and the Feminine Muse: Women in Interiors by John White Alexander." Women’s Art Journal 6 (Fall/Winter 1985-86): pp. 1-8.

Goley, Mary Ann. "John White Alexander's Panel for Music Room." Bulletin of the DIA 64, 4 (1989): pp. 5-15 (fig. 1).

The Detroit Institute of Arts. A Visitor’s Guide, 1995, p. 74 (ill.).

Moore, Sarah J. John White Alexander and the Construction of National Identity: Cosmopolitan American Art, 1880-1915. Newark, 2003, pp. 52-53 (ill.).