Ceri Richards (1903-1971), The Pianist (1944)

Ceri Richards’ Daughter Talks About Her Father

“As soon as he could afford it, he bought a piano, and had pianos all his life and played every day, and played very very well. This features in different ways in such a lot of his works.” – Rhiannon Gooding, daughter of Ceri Richards

Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;

Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see

A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings

And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.

In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song

Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong

To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside

And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.

Lines 1-8 from Piano by D.H. Lawrence 1918

Born into a highly cultured, working-class family, Ceri Richards and his siblings were all taught to play the piano. The exposure to the arts, particularly to music, built a inclination towards what would be a major source of inspiration and stimulus to Richards’ painting. Throughout many periods of his life, Richards returned to the theme of music. In his early pictures, the music room and the piano  are the focus of the artworks. However, in his latter works, the images become less representational, with light and color becoming important elements of the works. The whiteness of the woman and piano in the picture that contrast the bright red room that forms the background not only distinct the piano and the room from one another, but also shines the spotlight on the two.

Michelangeli plays Debussy’s “Poissons d’or,” 1962 — Debussy’s music acted as one of Richards’ many inspirations

Colours are a keyboard, the artist is the hand that plays on them… A painter who finds no satisfaction in representation, but who wants to express his internal life, and who envies the ease with which it can be done by music, applies the means of music to his own art. And from this results the modern desire for rhythm in painting, for mathematic abstract construction, for repeated notes of colour, for setting colour in motion.” –Wassily Kandinsky, 1911