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de-learning to play the piano

/ playing the piano

A piece based on the history of painting: In The Sight of Sound, Music, representation, and the history of the body, Richard Leppert argues that music is a marker of power and discusses how the representation of women at their piano illustrates the prevailing inherent social, cultural and political discourses.

Performative and political choices within music: - Rather than denounce the representation of women’s domesticity, it’s more about facing the instrument to try and «intervene». - The idea is not to deconstruct a historical situation and question (or pretend to question) why young bourgeois girls learn the piano if not to practice a safe occupation at home. It’s more about about taking responsibilities and trying to act. - Deciding not to be panicked and ashamed by mistakes. - Bad playing like bad painting? Some other type of punk maybe. - Refusing to learn to play the masters’ scores. (Even if the music is brilliant, it is also repeating what you’re told to repeat.) - A statement, which is also a gesture to be be performed. An idea taking shape in an expressionist practice -as you cannot improvise and not be expressionist... - Giving up the usual time frame (this is not a traditional music piece, an album, a recital, a score) but hundred of hours of recorded music. It is a mass of music, like an organic process of accumulation. - Not quite like practising, not quite like rehearsing. - De-learning and playing. Improvising. De-learning to play the piano (1999) 4 months of de-learning, documented by 140 hours of audio and video recording, originally recorded on SVHS and audio tapes and transferred to DVDs and CDs. Commissioned by Work & Leisure International, Birmingham / final concert at The International 3, Manchester / catalogue text by Josephine Pryde. Also shown as an installation in the group show Ne Travaillez Jamais, curated by Metastudio, Munich 2000, Playing the piano (2010/2012) A year of playing, documented by 160 hours of audio recording. Realised with a grant from la Mairie de Paris. Live perrformances at the group show Hit & Run at Marion Meyer Contemporain, Paris, 2011, and for Art-O-Rama, with Le Confort Moderne and Triangle France, Marseille 2012.

On the piano

Piano by Alexandre Charpentier, painted by Albert Besnard, 1902 Thomas Wilmer Dewings, America Receiving the Nine Muses on Gilded Age Steinway piano, commissioned by Theodore Roosevelt in 1903 for the East Room of the White House

Saint Cecilia

Johann Ziegler, Saint Cecilia seated playing an organ, end 18th, early 19th Nicolas Poussin, Sainte Cecilia, 1628

Artist unknown, An Unknown Noblewoman, as Saint Cecilia, mid 16th Nicola Monare, Saint Cecilia at the Organ, 17th

Peeter Sion, Saint Cecilia, oil on copper, 17th John William Waterhouse, Saint Cecilia, 1895

Baron Adolph de Meyer, Sainte CĂŠcile, photoengraving, 1896 Postcard, early 20th

Artemisia Gentileschi, Saint Cecilia, about 1620 Attributed to Simone Pignoni, Saint Cecilia, between 1614 and 1698

Sidney Meteyard, Saint Cecilia, 1896 Artemisia Gentileschi, Saint Cecilia and the Angel, 1625

Peter Paul Rubens, Saint Cecilia, 1630 Michel Van Coxcie, Saint Cecilia, 1589

Claude Vignon, Saint Cecilia, mid 17th Max Ernst, The Shrine of Saint Cecilia, 1923

Carlo Dolci, Saint Cecilia, 1670 Carlo Dolci, Saint Cecilia, 1671

Artist unknown, Saint Cecilia, print, 1891 John Melhuish Strudwick, Saint Cecilia, 1896

Edward Reginald Frampton, Saint Cecilia, 1902 Ludomir Slendzinski, Prelude Saint Cecily, 1973


Lavinia Fontana, Self-Portrait at the Spinet, 1577 Johannes Vermeer, Young Woman Seated at a Virginal, 1670/1672

Francois-Hubert Drouais, Madame Charles Simon Favart, 1757 Anonymous, A Parisian lady seated at her square Piano, 1793

Jan Vermeer, A Lady Seated at a Virginal, 1674 Gerard Dou, Woman at the Clavicord, 1665

Franz Xaver WagenschÜn, Marie Antoinette at the Clavichord, 1768 Velasquez, The Artist’s daughter at theHarpsichord, 1820

Louis Carrogis, Madame de Maupassant, late 18th Eugène Viollet-Le-Duc, Alexandrine SurÊda at the Piano, late 19th

François Boucher, The Marquise of Pompadour, early 18th Johann Friedrich Tischbein, Frédérique Louise Wilhelmine, Princess of Orange-Nassau, late 18th

Edgar Degas, Mademoiselle Dihau au Piano, 1888 Domingos Antonio de Sequeira, Mariana Benedita Sequeira, 1822

Anonymous American painting, 1835 American print, 19th

George Bellows, Emma at the Piano, 1914 Ilya Yefimovich Repin, The pianiste Sophie Menter, 1887

Joseph Middleton Jopling, Miss Ashton Seated at the Piano, 1857 Wilhelm von Schadow, title unknown, 19th

Manet, Madame Manet at her Piano, 1868 Edgar Degas, Madame Camus at the Piano, 1869 John Singer Sargent, Portrait of Catherine Vlasto, 1897

Clara Schumann, references not found

Vincent van Gogh, Marguerite Gachet at the Piano, 1890

Clara Schuman Š picture-alliance/dpa Clara Schuman, references not found

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Mademoiselle Dihau at the Piano, 1890 Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Madame Juliette Pascal in the Salon of the Chateau de Malrome, 1896

Sophie Braslau, opera singer, photographic print early 20th Francis Jane Crosby, blind church composer, photographic print, early 20th

Clara Clemens seated at piano, photographic print, 1908 Amy Castles seated at piano, photographic print, 20th

Lauren Bacall Ann Rutherford

Landowska and Tolstoy at Yasnaya Polyana (1907) Landowska and Tolstoy at Yasnaya Polyana, 1907 Madame Verlot, press photography, early 20th

Ingres, Two women at the Harpsichord, late 18th, early 19th Alexandre Dubois- Drahonet, Princess Marie d’orleans, Duchess of Wutemberg, 1813-/839

actresses’ portraits

Anna Karina Yvonne De Carlo

Hedy Lamarr Michele Morgan

Bette Davies Grace Kelly

Jean Bartel Posing at Piano, Miss America, 1943 Ruth Hussey, 1941

Pola Negri, early 20th Linda Darnell between scenes of This is My Love, 1954


Eugène Delacroix, Portrait of a Woman at the Piano, mid 19th Elie Nadelman, Woman at the Piano, 1917

Theodore Robinson, At the Piano, 1887 Thomas Wilmer Dewing, The Piano, 1891 Jacob Bratland, Interior with a Woman by the Piano, 1906

Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta, Lady Playing the Piano in an Interior Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta, A Favourite Piece, between 1841 and 1920

Advertising for Piano Ortiz & Cusso, late 19th Aubrey Beardsley, advertising for Singer, late 19th

Book covers, 20th

American advertising and piano methods, 20th

Henri Matisse, Woman at the Piano, early 20th Henri Matisse, The Pianist and the Chess Players, early 20th

Print, USA early 20th Poul Friis Nybo, A woman at the piano, by 1929

C Yarnall Abbott, Traumerei, photographic print, 1902 A melody, photographic print, 1907

Irving Wiles, The Pianist, 1889 Adolph Menzel, Woman Playing the Piano, Study for MatinĂŠe, 1884

Postcard, early 20th C. W. Tucker, Woman playing the Piano, Marsden Kemp Funds, 1906

Thomas Eakins, Elizabeth at the Piano, 1875 Pierre Auguste Renoir, Woman at the Piano, 1875/76

Theodore Robinson, Girl at Piano, 1887 Childe Hassam, At The Piano, 1908

Julius LeBlanc Stewart, Young Woman at Piano, 1878 Casimiro Sainz y Saiz Maragat, title unknown, 20th

Jules Adolphe Goupil, Young woman at her piano, end 19th Pavel Fedotov, Portrait of a young lady at the piano, 1840/50

Giovanni Boldini, The woman in red, 1875 George Hamilton Barrable, A Song Without Words, 19th

Postcards, early 20th

Postcards, early 20th

Andante, Postcard published by Deutsche Germalde-Industrie Georgi & Co, 1910 Birthday postcard, 1950’s

not playing

Poscard, early 20th Eugene Alexander Montgomery, Melodian, 1908

Fernand Khnopff, At the Piano, end 19th Imre Knopp, Young Woman in Costume, late 19th, mid 20th

Alfred Steves, The Absence, 19th Igor Grabar, Lady by Piano, 1899

George Goodwin Kilburne, A young woman at a piano, 1880 Photographic print, early 20th

H. borchard, postcard, early 20th R. Bressler, lady reading music by Piano, poscard, 1918 Photographic print, postcard, early 20th

Postcard, early 20th Natan Altman, The Woman at the Piano, 1914

Bror Julius Olsson Nordfeldt, The Lady at the Piano, 1906 BUTAY Jean-Baptiste, Portrait of two women at the piano, late 19th

Julian Alden Weir, At The Piano, late 19th Childe Hassam, Sonata, 1893

Photographic print, USA between 1898 and 1920 Unknown photographer, postcard, 1910

photomechanical print, 1903

Old Time Melody, Victorian Print, 1881 C. W. Johnson , Lady at the Spinet, 1915 Advertising postcard, late 19th early 20th

Postcards, USA, around 1910

Postcards, early 20th

American music magazines, 1906 and 1911

Valentine Cameron Prinsep, Reclining Woman with a Parrot, 20th Postcard, early 20th

from their back

Vilhelm Hammershøi, Interior with Woman by the Piano, early 20th Vilhelm Hammershoi, Interior Strandgade, 1901

Thomas Wilmer Dewing, The Spinet, 1902 Hermann Angermeyer, postcard, 1917 Marguerite Stuber Pearson, The Music Room, 1940’s

George Oberteuffer, Women At The Piano, late 19th early 20th William Merritt Chase, Mrs Meigs At The Organ, 1883

Louise AbbĂŠma, At thePiano, late 19th John Gay, photographic print, between 1960 and 1965

William Worcester Churchill, Girl Playing the Piano, 1918 Hans Borchardt, The Little Pianist, 1897

Carl Wilhelm Holsoe, A Lady Playing a Spinet, late 19th early 20th Carl Vilhelm Holsoe, A Lady Playing The Piano, late 19th early 20th

Peter Ilstedt, Interior with a Lady at Her Spinet, 1904 Ethel Mars, illustration, early 20th

Vilhelm Hammershoi, Interior With Woman at Piano, 1901 V ilhelm Hammershøi, Interior With Piano and Woman in Black, 1901

Felix Edouard Vallotton, Interior with Woman at the Piano, early 20th Felix Edouard Vallotton, Woman at the Piano, 1904

Louis Thibaudet, Women at Piano, 20th Louis Thibaudet, Interior with Open window, 20th

Louis Thibaudet, The Piano, 20th Louis Thibaudet, The Blue Pianist, 20th

Postcard, Chopin, 19th Charles Frederic Ulrich, Musical Moment, mid 19th

Photographic print, NY, 1956 Photo found on the internet, without references

very young girls

Photographic pirnit, Bowers-Concilio-Stone Collection, early 20th Postcard, 1900

Woodcut Y. Urushibara after J.McBey, Young girl at the Piano, 1929 Young Girl Plays Piano with Only Five Fingers, screen still, via The Daily What

Alfredo M端ller, Young girl at the Piano, 1895/1914 W.R. Gray / Gray Studio Collection, Imogene Gant, 1914

Poul Friis Nybo, A Girl at the Piano, by 1929 George Goodwin Kilburne, Piano practice, 1924

Theodore Robinson, Girl in Red at Piano, 1888 American magazine cover, 1924

Auguste Renoir, The Daughters of Catulle Mendès, 1888 Jacob Dooijewaard, Girl by a Piano, mid 20th

J. Harold Leighton, Young Girl At Piano, 1920-1940 Postcard, early 20th Kris Kleckner, The Melody of a Young Girl’s Heart, 2004

Photographic print, Two children at Piano, 1898 Henri Joseph Castaing, At the Piano, early 20th

Photographic print, early 20th Steve Hanks, Sharing Key Time, from, 2003

Fanny Zakuck Harlfinger - The Piano Lesson, 1904

Fanny Zakuck Harlfinger, The Piano Lesson, 1904 Postcard, USA, 1950’s

American music magazine, 1925 and 1948

Photographic print, Little Girl Teaching her Doll to play the Piano, early 20th American music magazine, 1941

mothers and daughters

Postcards, early 20th

Louis Carrogis, The Marquise of Rumain, the Comtess of Polignac, her elder Daughter and miss de Rumain her second Daughter, mid/late 18th Baron Francois-Pascal-Simon Gerard, Comtesse de Morel-Vinde and her Daughter, 1799

E. Maaskam, A mother and her unmarried daughter, print, 1811 References not found

Unsigned drawings, postcards, early 20th

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, At The Piano, 1858/59 Paul CÊzanne, The Artist’s Mother and Sister, 1868

Wilhelm Wachtel, At the Piano, 1914 Thomas Eakins, Home Scene, 1871

the lesson

Jan Havicksz, The Harpsichord Lesson, 1660/69 Jean-HonorĂŠ Fragonard, The Music Lesson, 1769

Gabriel Metsu, The Music Lesson, between 1650/1665 Vermeer, The Music Lesson, 1662/1664

Pietro Longhi, The Music Lesson, 1760 FrĂŠdĂŠric Millet, The Piano Lesson, 1834

Marguerite Gerard, The Piano Lesson, 1780 Jean-Franรงois Garneray, The Piano Lesson, by 1830

Nikolai Koshelev, The Music Lesson, 1865 Jules Alexis Meunier, The Harpsichord Lesson, early 20th

Santiago Rusi単ol i Prats, Piano Lesson, late 19th Albert Edelfelt, At the Piano, between 1854 and 1905

Charles West Cope, The Piano Lesson, 1863 Mihaly Munkacsy, The Piano Lesson, early 20th

Alfred Roll, The Piano Lesson, late 19th George Goodwin Kilburne, The Piano Lesson, 1871

Gustave Caillebotte, The Piano Lesson, 1881 Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The Piano Lesson, 1889

Edmund Blair Leighton, The Piano Lesson, late 19th Gen Paul, The Piano Lesson, early /mid 20th

Eugene Oge, The First Lesson, late 19th, early 20th Karl Harald Alfred Broge, The Piano Lesson, late 19th, early 20th

Francis Day, The Piano Lesson, 1895 Charles West Cope, The First Piano Lesson, 1860

J De Camp, The Music Lesson, 1895 William Merritt Chase, The Music Lesson, 1906

Fletcher Ransom, Girl Playing Piano, 1913 Photographic print from Du Bois albums of photographs of African Americans in Georgia, 1900

Francis Sidney Muschamp, The Piano Lesson, end 19th, mid 20th Thomas W. Holgate, The Music Lesson, end 19th, mid 20th

Peter Fendi, The Piano Lesson, early 19th Roy Stuart, The Piano Teatcher, 1990’s

American music magazine

Frank Huddlestone Potter, A Music Lesson, 1887 Poul Friis Nybo, Music Lesson, by 1929

Paloma Schramm with her piano teacher, photographic print, 1898 Elliott Erwitt, Piano Lesson, Odessa, 1957

Vermeer, The Concert, 1664 Gerard Terborch, The Concert, 1675

Gabriel Metsu, Man and Woman Sitting at the Virginal, 1658-60 Frans van Mieris, Duet, 1658

in the family

Molenaer, Family Making Music, 1635 Anonymous painting from Sweden in the early 1800’s.

Johann Joseph Zoffany, The Gore Family with George, 3rd Earl Cowpe, 1775/76 Johann Joseph Zoffany, Colonel Blair with his Family and an Ayah in an Interior, 1786

Louis Carrogis, Miss Pitoin at her Piano with her Father at the Bass, late 18th Plate from The Music Series, Sarreguemine manufacture, early 20th

Nicolas Tournier, The Concert, mid 17th Gaspare traversi, The Concert, mid/late 18th

Anonymous, School of David, Gerard Family Portrait, late18th Pietro Paolini, Music Concert, mid 17th

Vittorio Reggianini, The Piano Recital, late 19th, mid 20th 0tto Wilhelm Erdmann, title unknown, mid 19th

James Gillray, Farmer Giles and his wife showing off their daughter Betty, between 1792 and 1810 Carl Zewy, Das Lied, das meine Mutter sang, postcard, early 20th Unidentified photographer, stereoview, 1860

Howard Chandler Christy, The Piano Recital, 1903 Painted by W. Dendy Sadler; etched by W.H. Boucher, Family relaxing by fireplace and singing, as woman plays piano, 1900

Adolph von Menzel, Clara Schumann and Joseph Joachim in Concert, 1854 Postcard, early 20th

Photos, early 20th

Joseph de Longueil, Mecanical Concert, 1769 Calendar, drawing after Jean Louis Beuzon

François Philippe d’Orléans, The Salon of Princess of Joinville in Rio de Janeiro, mid 19th Sebastian Gutzwiller, Basle Family Concert, 1849

Ingres, The Forestier Family, early 19th Vincent van Gogh, Woman Pianist and a Violinist, 1887

playing woth other women

Thomas Wilmer Dewing, The Song and the Cello, 1910 Gabriel Leduc, Young girls at the Piano, late 19th

Louis Jambor, Girls At Piano, early/mid 20th Louis Jambor, A musical interlude, early/mid 20th

Mihaly Munkacsy The Music Room, 1878 Lilla Cabot Perry, The Trio, 1898/1900

Irving Ramsey Wiles, The Sonata, 1889 Marguerite Pearson of Boston, Prelude, early 1920’s

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Yvonne and Christine Lerolle Playing the Piano, 1897 Marguerite Pearson, Prelude, early 1920’s

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, A Christmas Carol, 1857 Magazine illustration, 18th

Magazine illustration, late 18th Maude Clifford, 1914

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Young Girls at the Piano, 1892 G茅za D贸sa, At the Piano, 1870

Priechenfried Alois Heinrich, The Recital, late 19th, early 20th Albert Von Kellern, Chopin, 1873

Walter Firle, The Singing Lesson, 1920’s Walter Firle, Home Music, by 1929

Francis Sidney Muschamp, New Music, between 1870 and 1903 Ralf Nau/Getty Images, How to Decorate With a Home Piano, found on

Robert W. Macbeth, Reverie, engraving, 1900 Amalie Marie of Bavaria and Archiduchess Marie Valerie, 19th

Emile Renard, Girls at their First Communion, early 20th Photograhic print, France, late 19th

Postcards, early 20th

men - listening

Jan Steen, A Young Woman playing a Harpsichord to a Young Man, 1659 Edmund Blair Leighton, Courtship, 1903

Auguste Leprince, Woman Playing thePiano with Man Reading, early/mid 19th

Clara and Robert Schumann, 1850 Helmut Skarbina, postcard, 1916

Ginger Rogers plays for director Leo McCarey between shots of Once Upon a Honeymoon, 1942 Marlene Dietrich and Billy Wilder, 1948

American music magazine, 1921 and 1926

Mathilde Dietrichson Women in the Music Room, 1885 Photographic print, 1896

John White Alexander, At the Piano, 1894 George Goodwin Kilburne, The New Spinet, mid 19th

Fletcher Ransom, A Song from Long Ago, 1913 Breakspeare, The Reluctant Pianist, late 19th Edward Hopper, Hopper's Room in New York, early /mid 20th

Vernon Castle, Vernon Castle And his wife, Irene Foote Castle, photographic print, 1915 Postcard, drawing by Carl Zewy, early 20th

Alfred Edward Emslie, A Beethoven Sonata, end 19th Postcard, tinted sepia picture, perhaps in 1918

Edgar Degas, Manet Listening to His Wife, 1868/69 Sir Frank Dicksee, The Reverie, late 19th

Jean-Edouard Vuillard, Lady at the Piano, early 20th James Ensor, Russian Music, 1881

George Marks, Man Admiring Woman Playing Piano, 1950 Françoise Sagan in the countryside, press photography, 1960’s

Postcards, early 20th


Thomas Rowlandson, cartoons, late 18th

Thomas Rowlandson Jealousy, The Rival, late 18th Try it on the piano, USA, early 20th Postcard, Germany, early 20th

William Holman Hunt, The Awakening Conscience, 1853

RenĂŠ Prinet, Kreutzer Sonata, 1898 Adriano Cecchi, Signorina E. Cavaliere, late 19th

Postcards, early 20th

in films

Greta Garbo and Lewis in Romance, dir. Clarence Brown, 1930 Joan Crawford and Conrad Veidt, in A woman’s Face, dir. George Cukor, 1941

Ava Gardner, in Pandora and the flying Dutchman, dir. Albert Lewin, 1951 Alida Valli, in The Paradine Case, dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1947

The Piano, dir. Jane Campion, 1993 The page turner, dir. Denis Dercourt, 2006

Katharine Hepburn as Clara Schumann in Song of Love, dir. Clarence Brown, 1947 Monica Bleibtreu in Four minutes, dir.Chris Kraus, 2006

Anouk Ferjac as Clara Schumann, in Monsieur Schumann, dir. Bernard Queysanne, 1978 Konrad Rufus M端ller, Martina Gedeck als Clara Schumann in Geliebte Clara, Filmstiftung NRW, 2008

Marlene Dietrich before her execution in Dishonored, dir. Josef von Sternberg, 1931 Sean Young in Blade Runner, dir. Ridley Scott’s, 1982


Felix Barrias, Chopin’s Death, black and white photoengraving, 1895 James Gillray, Playing in Parts, between 1792 and 1810

Pablo Picasso, Woman with a Guitar by the Piano, 1911

Roy Lichtenstein, Girl at Piano, 1963

performing outside the house

Postcard, in the French Alps, late 19th W Livermore, A Cafe in Cairo, early 20th

Photgraphic pirnts, early/mid 20th

nudes and more

Tintoretto, Women Playing Music, mid 16th Johann Heinrich Fussli, Naked Woman and Woman Playing the Piano, 1799/1800 Grajewski Fotograph Inc, Original Canadian cast of Calendar Girls, 2003

Photo found on the internet, without references Photo found on the internet, without references Image found on

John Sloan, Nude at Piano, 1928 Kate Moss, references not found

Photos found on the internet, without references

Wladimir Maradoudine, double keyboard Photo found on, without references Photo found on, without references

Photo found on a photographic blog without references Photo found on a photographic blog without references Photo found on

some contemporary performers

Annea Lockwood’s work for piano Piano Burning, first performed in 1968 Yoko Ono, performance with piano, 1960/70?

Lady Gaga Alicia Keys

Nina SImone and her band, 1970’s Mary Lou Williams, 1970’s

Yvonne Loriod, perfoming Messiaen with him, 1973 Yuja Wang, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, 2011

Gina Bachauer and Sir John Sir John Gielgud, mid 20th Amina Claudine Myers Ensemble with Reggie Nicholson and Jerome Harris, 1980s

Geri Allen, 2010 Carla Bley, 2007 Marielle and Katia Labeque, 2009

Record covers

fsahion photography

Georges Barbier, Incantation, illustration for the Gazette du Bon Ton, 1922 Marion Morehouse wearing a dress by ChĂŠruit and jewelry by Black, Starr and Frost, next to a piano designed by Steichen, Gelatin silver print, Courtesy CondĂŠ Nast Archive, 1928

Jay Thorpe, Model Margaret Horan and model Francis Douelon, Gelatin silver print, Courtesy CondĂŠ Nast Archive, 1935

Unknown photographer, Unknown photographer Pola Negri plays the piano, early 20th Berenice V. for Fashion 360 Magazine, 2011

photo from the internet, references not found pages from Italien Vogue

pages from Fudge, japanese fashion magazine, 2011 Michael Bublé’s wife Luisana Lopilato for Ultimo lingerie, 2011 Old Money fashion shoot for Vogue Italia’s, 2010

Charlotte Gainsbourg in French ELLE Photo from the internet, references not found

Adverstising for Chanel, 1992 Photo from the internet, references not found

Fashion photography for Versace and for Iceberg, 1992

women at their piano  
women at their piano  

research for the performance piece "de-learning to play the piano" and "playing the piano" by fabienne audéoud