Connecting Different Types of Art & Disciplines

Instructor: Stephanie Przybylek

Stephanie has taught studio art and art history classes to audiences of all ages. She holds a master's degree in Art History.

How are arts activities such as dance, music, and visual arts related? Does one discipline influence the others - and how? In this lesson, we'll explore some examples of relationships between the arts and other disciplines.

The Arts Influence Each Other

Art, music, dance, and theater have a long, interconnected history. We pursue such activities for a desire or need to go beyond the everyday. Have you ever taken a class in something new to you like ceramics or modern dance and realized it had things in common with, say, your chemistry or social studies class? Going outside your comfort zone can create exciting new opportunities! Musicians have been influenced by great artworks. Painters have worked to achieve a sense of music-like motion and rhythm in their canvases. In many societies, artists, musicians and writers knew each other, lived in the same neighborhoods and socialized in similar circles. Each might seem to be in its own world, but through time, practitioners of these disciplines have been impacted and influenced by each other.

Let's look at a few examples.


The Romantic movement began in French literature in the late 18th - early 19th centuries and spread across creative disciplines in Europe (as well as America). It was a reaction against Classicism, which emphasized control and cool rational thought. Romanticism encompassed many ideas, including individualism, deep emotion, elements of the supernatural, and a spiritual relationship with nature. A literary example is Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, the sweeping sage of good and evil against the backdrop of revolution in Paris. (And, remember, it was later made into a Broadway musical). Artist Eugene Delacroix painted massive works like Liberty Leading the People, which in dramatic color and deep shadows conveys turmoil, patriotism and emotion. And during this time Romantic composer Hector Berlioz wrote Symphonie Fantastique, a musical tale of unrequited love in which an artist high on opium experiences supernatural forces (it's quite a story!). The Romantic movement eventually influenced the visual arts, music and literature through much of the western world.

Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People
Liberty Leading the People

Berlioz, manuscript page from Symphonie Fantastique
Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique


In late 19th century France, an art movement developed that tried to convey an impression of what the eye saw through a loose painting style that emphasized light and color. Famed impressionists include Claude Monet (think of his many water lily paintings) and Pierre-August Renoir. Their paintings are splashes of bright color, patterns of tones that resolve into imagery.

Monet, Water Lilies
Monet, Water Lilies

French musicians like Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy then began composing pieces that created an image of something (clouds, the sea) through sound, in shifting tones, wisps of melody, chords and musical articulations (like slurs and tremolos, where an instrumentalist purposely wavers repeatedly between two notes) that created an aural picture with sound. Although Debussy hated the term impressionism (because it had first been a negative definition handed down by art critics) he was reacting to similar ideas as the painters. Furthermore, in his composition La Mer (1905), Debussy was very influenced by Asian arts, especially a Japanese woodblock print by the artist Hokusai titled The Great Wave Off Kanagawa.

Image of The Great Wave Off Kanagawa
Great Wave Off Kanazawa

Russian Connections in Visual Arts, Theater and Ballet

What do you think would happen if a visual artist became interested in dance? Jewish-Russian artist Marc Chagall, born in 1887, crossed many creative boundaries. He explored varied art media including painting, stained glass and ceramics, and spent much of his career involved in theater and ballet. He lived for a time in Paris, where he interacted with other artists and writers. Among his teachers was artist Leon Bakst, who had collaborated with Russian ballet impresario Serge Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes.

Costume design for Ballets Russes production, by L. Bakst
Costume design by L. Bakst

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