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July 2013
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Art and Music: Gershwin

Gershwin painting Schoenberg

Gershwin painting Schoenberg

George Gershwin was born to Russian Jewish immigrants in Brooklyn, New York in 1898. In his 38-year life, he asserted a bold musical identity that was not Russian, not European, but distinctly American (in fact, once he had tasted success, he did travel to Paris to seek instruction from Nadia Boulanger; she wouldn’t touch him for fear of wrecking his natural talent).

Multiple talents ran deeply in the Gershwin family. George’s brother, Ira Gershwin, the brilliant lyricist, was also an amateur painter. Their sister “Frankie” was a singer who gave up performing in order to raise a family; she, too, turned to painting as a creative outlet (by the way, Frankie married the son of the legendary pianist Leopold Godowsky; Leopold Jr. was concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and of the San Francisco Symphony). George adored contemporary art. He not only loved to paint, but was an avid collector and sought out the likes of Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and David Alfaro Siqueiros (below).

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George Gershwin by his friend David Alfaro Siqueiros

George Gershwin by his friend David Alfaro Siqueiros


  • Juliet M. Appel Duncanson

    Fascinating information in this blog post. I had heard of the Gershwin family’s daubing but seeing was a wholly different experience. I love the glimpse of Gershwin’s rendering of Schoenberg! It reminds me of Egon Schiele’s style which is indeliblely linked in my mind with Alban Berg (due to the DG box set of LPs of Berg’s collected works, each record sleeve bearing a different Schiele image.) All of these artists were contemporaries (including Rivera, Khalo and Siqueiros) so I guess that I’m not mad just fixated.