25 April 2019: Florence Gétreau to present public lecture at the Graduate Center

The Brook Center is delighted to present FLORENCE GÉTREAU, in a lecture entitled MUSICIANS IN PORTRAITS: ARCHAEOLOGY OF A GENRE, CODES OF REPRESENTATION, SYMBOLIC AND SOCIAL MEANINGS. GÉTREAU is the renowned musicologist, art historian, and author of the award-winning book, Voir la musique.

Thursday, 25 April 2019, at 6:30 o’clock
The Martin E. Segal Theatre
The Graduate Center
The City University of New York
365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016

Free and open to the public



(This event was streamed live on the internet.)

The event began with the presentation of the inaugural Claire Brook Award to Florence Gétreau for her book Voir la musique (Paris: Éditions Citadelles & Mazenod, 2017). Her lecture, described below, will follow. 

Considering that a portrait is the representation of a specific person, and not a “figure of character”, the lecture will be devoted to paintings (and sometimes graphic art representations) of identified musicians. The first visual evidence of renowned musicians (instrumentalists, singers, composers, theoreticians, cantors, and sometimes persons who have several such functions) comes from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in a variety of media, from miniatures in codex to figurative tombstones. The production of medals, woodcuts, and painted panels during the sixteenth century spawned a tradition of representing the professional musician as a figure “acting”, sometimes with other persons, in a typical environment (chapel, court and official setting) or framed alone as a bust or face.

Since the Renaissance, individual portraits on canvas have expressed the social status of musicians with codes of representation and often with contextual attributes and elements. Selected from different Western countries and times, they present famous municipal or street musicians, court and ecclesiastic musicians, instrumentalists and virtuosi, singers on stage in their famous roles, but also “à la ville”, composers with their emblems and inspired attitudes, concert masters and conductors in action.

In addition to professional musicians, amateurs range from princes and other royal amateurs to aristocrats and bourgeois practitioners, with special focus on female painters making music. Portraits of especially famous music personalities will be presented as case studies to demonstrate each of these categories (the castrato Farinelli, the virtuoso Liszt, the composers Lassus, Rameau or Berlioz).

Group portraits support an understanding of the context in which musicians were acting together (in court bodies like chapels or chamber ensembles) but also in domestic companies. Artists’ colonies and communities were also sometimes portrayed as a manifesto.

Historiated portraits, self-portraits, caricatures, as well as “deconstructed” effigies (in the twentieth century, for example) are good opportunities to develop the symbolic vocabulary used by painters across the centuries to emphasize the peculiarity of musicians in portrait.

FLORENCE GÉTREAU is director emeritus of research at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS). For thirty years she has been a curator at the Musée Instrumental du Conservatoire de Paris and the Musée national des Arts et Traditions populaires, chef de projet of the Musée de la Musique, and she served as director of the Institut de recherche sur le patrimoine musical en France (2004–2013). She has authored or edited numerous publications on makers and cultural contexts of French musical instruments as well as their conservation and access, on the sociology of music, and on music iconography. She is the founding editor of the journal Musique • Images • Instruments and has frequently curated exhibitions, most recently “Wine and Music: Harmony and Dissonance” (Cité du Vin, Bordeaux). Elected to the Academia Europaea in 2010, Commandeur des Arts et Lettres, she is the recipient of the Anthony Baines prize and the Curt Sachs Award of the American Musical Instruments Society. She is Past President of the Société française de musicologie (2011–2015), and current member of the Directorium of the International Musicological Society.

THE CLAIRE BROOK AWARD, established in April 2018 by the Barry S. Brook Center for Music Research and Documentation (The Graduate Center of The City University of New York), honors an outstanding monograph, dissertation, edited collection, or exhibition catalogue on a designated topic related to the current work of the Brook Center.

CLAIRE BROOK (1925–2012) was vice president and music editor of W.W. Norton & Co. in New York, in a distinguished lineage that included Paul Henry Lang, Nathan Broder, and David Hamilton. She sponsored the publication of dozens of books in Norton’s series “Books that Live in Music,” including seminal works on the music of Africa, jazz, and contemporary music, as well as editions of Joseph Machlis’s The Enjoyment of Music and Donald Jay Grout’s A History of Western Music that have kept them at the forefront of music textbooks ever since. In 1999 she was awarded the degree of Doctor of Music, honoris causa, by the New England Conservatory. After retirement from Norton, she served for a number of years as Executive Editor of Pendragon Press. Claire left a generous bequest to the Brook Center that has supported many of its activities over the years. It is in her honor that this award has been established.