When I have found the relationship of all the tones," wrote the painter Henri Matisse, "the result must be a living harmony of tones, a harmony not unlike that of a musical composition."
Artists and musicians have long inspired one another, each taking ideas of tone, composition and form from the other, as well as more metaphysical conceptions of truth and beauty.
Now the relationship between the visual arts and music is the subject of a delightful exhibition that opens Saturday in Bethesda at the new Music Center at Strathmore, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's second home.
The Art of Music exhibition presents about 40 outstanding artworks from the collection of the Baltimore Museum of Art that celebrate the affinity of music and art through the ages and across cultural boundaries.
The artistic links between sight and sound take innumerable forms. Picasso, for example, often incorporated images of the guitar, the quintessential Spanish instrument, into his cubist canvases. Klee, a pioneering abstractionist, was a musician as well as a painter who found inspiration in the dissonant harmonies of 20th-century music.
Sometimes the relationship was more indirect. Whistler, Manet and Toulouse-Lautrec all designed sheet-music covers for the popular tunes of their day; Whistler even named some of his compositions after musical forms such as the nocturne.
And in our own time, the syncopated rhythms of jazzmen such as Louis Armstrong and John Coltrane have found visual reflection in the sophisticated compositions of such African-American artists as Romare Bearden, Calvin Burnett and Roy DeCarava, all of whom are represented in this show.
From Old Masters to cutting-edge contemporary figures, the aspirations, associations and meaning of the visual arts have often born a symbiotic relationship with musical developments - and vice versa.
The Strathmore Hall show celebrates this relationship through some of the BMA's most treasured artworks, from etchings by Rembrandt and Durer to paintings by Picasso, Matisse and Toulouse-Lautrec, to installation art by Lorna Simpson.
The show runs through Feb. 26 and will travel to museums throughout Maryland during 2005 and 2006. The Music Center is at 10701 Rockville Pike in North Bethesda. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 301-530-0540.
For more arts events, see Page 31.