Monday, 30 March 2020

A New World?

A New World? 

In 1995 a dear friend commissioned me to paint a large watercolour for his office and we agreed that Antonín Dvořák's final symphony "From the New World", composed in New York in 1893, would make an inspiring subject. The final painting (200 x 100 cm) does not reproduce well page-size, so I would like to share with you the initial study, that already has the same energy, colours and atmosphere. 
Study for the "New World" Symphony. Watercolour. 44 x 91 cm. 1995.

I let this powerful romantic music saturate me for weeks, as it conjured up the industrial pollution of the late nineteenth century, the early sky-scrapers and tangled network of new highways, generating brushstrokes that somehow equated with the rhythms and dynamics of the music.

But other parts of this work suggested wide-open spaces, unspoiled nature. So I imagined the Great Lakes, the prairies, the Rocky Mountains and far away (if you look closely) a few teepees. And with me there's usually an ever-changing horizon.

But what is so moving in this music, especially these days, is a deep longing, perhaps for something seemingly impossible. A longing then (as now) for freedom from injustice, from inequality, from disease. Dvořák's nostalgia for the folk songs of his own European culture became interwoven with the spirit of America's earliest music and its search for a new world. Perhaps music and visuals can move us to create a new world for today, because our world surely has to change. Many of us now in isolation unexpectedly have time. Time to think about how and what things might change.

Take a few moments now to listen to the Largo movement, played by a wonderfully multi-racial New York Philharmonic, conducted by Alan Gilbert. Start at 10.49 mins, when the English horn/cor anglais introduces that wistful melody that we all love:



  1. Ik ken dit schilderij, maar nu herken ik pas de ritmes die je er ook in hebt geschilderd. Prachtig en heerlijk om meteen maar weer eens naar de hele symphonie te luisteren.

  2. Als kind hoorde ik dit werk al bij het Residentie Orkest. Weet niet meer onder welke dirigent. Uit de nieuwe wereld; ik snap en herken de inspiratie. Mooi! Ben benieuwd of we nu een nieuwe wereld binnen stappen...

  3. I just listened too. Nice recording and nice painting too. We play at home the Sonatina in G op. 100 for Violin and Piano. Great piece, great energy, especially the race to the end of the last movement :-)