The Music Lesson

Artist: John George Brown (American (born England), Durham 1831–1913 New York)

Date: 1870

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 24 x 20 in. (61 x 50.8 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Gift of Colonel Charles A. Fowler, 1921

Accession Number: 21.115.3


At a time when women were gaining independence from their traditional roles as wives and mothers and birthrates were dropping, Brown celebrated romance and marriage by depicting music making, an approved activity for courting couples. Underscoring the message of potential nuptials are several details in the well-furnished middle-class parlor: the planter filled with ivy, which could signify women who cling to men for support; the harp, a common symbol of love; and the framed picture of a haloed female figure. The couple’s complementary attire and shared concentration signal their compatibility.