The Russian Geniuses Behind The World's Most "Artsy" Grand Piano

The Russian Geniuses Behind The World's Most "Artsy" Grand Piano

As the two artists were staunchly devoted to Russian art, painter Viktor Hartmann and composer Modest Mussorgsky forged a brotherhood that would be immortalized a century and a half later through an art case piano.


Hartmann especially had an inclination to delve into art that was galvanized by Russian heritage, whether it was a combination of Russian architecture and folklore, or even depictions of his country as a whole. 


However, Hartmann’s works weren’t regarded nearly as remarkable compared to other artists during his time. But despite this, his vast paintings provided the framework for his best friend, Mussorgsky, to expand on through music as a tribute after the painter’s death, bringing his piano suite, Pictures at an Exhibition, to life. Mussorgsky’s music brings the listener through such a vivid fable where the best of the two friends’ minds come together, all to create the impact Hartmann intended from his paintings.


Steinway & Sons' Pictures at an Exhibition


Every piece in Pictures at an Exhibition not only desires to accentuate the craft of Hartmann, but to bring about the unwavering creative will of Mussorgsky, which is translated into the desire to honor his friend with every note. 


The legacy of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, renowned as his most remarkable work, has inspired artists for years and years to come, especially in 2012, when American portrait artist Paul Wyse initiated the idea of a Steinway art case piano piece galvanized by Mussorgsky’s compositions. German-American piano company Steinway & Sons' Pictures at an Exhibition is a luxury grand piano embellished with Hartmann's paintings, which Mussorgsky depicts as vivid scenes through his piano suite. 


Paul Wyse’s multi-dimensional recreation of Hartmann’s works onto the side and even the top of Pictures at an Exhibition’s throughly adds to the piano’s already substantial amount of depth. Wyse’s use of glazing which brings out the paintings’ luminosity all while taking advantage of the many curves and positions that the piano assumes as a canvas, the art case takes on an infinite amount of perspectives, and permeate the onlooker’s mind in any conceivable fashion. 


The piano is unique not only for its art casing, but the way the art is so deeply integrated into the composition of the piano itself. One of Hartmann’s works presents Slavic folklore character Baba-Yaga inside her hut that happens to be standing on bird legs, and it was repurposed to be used as the stands of the piano itself. Though this element may look strangely drastic compared to the rest of the piece as a whole, it creates a beautiful illusion of the piano being held by the strength and substance of Russian art. The intense design of the hut and the clock centering it puts into perspective how rich Russian history is and has been over time. 

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