25 Of The Best Songs About Art And Artists

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

From paintings on cave walls to intricate sculptures in museums, art has always had a way of capturing our imaginations and emotions. Over the years, songwriters have used their medium to celebrate creativity, the artistic process and honor the creators’ legacies.

So plug in your headphones, immerse yourself in the music, and explore the harmonious fusion of art and music.

1. “Vincent” By Don McLean

To begin our list, we have the hit song of Don McLean, “Vincent.” Released in 1972, this heartfelt ballad is a tribute to the iconic Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh.

“Vincent”, also known as “Starry, Starry Night,” beautifully reflects on Van Gogh’s life, struggles, and artistic brilliance. Its lyrics talk about van Gogh’s inner turmoil, his battles with mental illness, and the profound beauty he found in the world around him despite his struggles.

This song is a poignant homage to one of history’s most admired artists, offering a glimpse into van Gogh’s troubled yet visionary soul. “Vincent” reminds us of the enduring power of art to touch hearts and inspire minds, leaving a lasting impact on all who hear its melancholic beauty.

2. “The Night Watch” By King Crimson

From King Crimson‘s 1974 album Starless and Bible Back, comes “The Night Watch.” This song is an instrumental piece that evokes emotions and creates imagery in the listener’s mind.

The title is inspired by the famous painting The Night Watch by Rembrandt, a renowned Dutch artist from the 17th century. The painting depicts a group of soldiers gathered at night, illuminated by torchlight.

“The Night Watch” can be interpreted as a musical exploration of themes such as drama, tension, and darkness, much like the painting it takes its name from. It’s a testament to the band’s ability to use music as a medium for storytelling and emotional expression, inviting listeners to engage with the piece on a deeper level.

3. “Andy Warhol” By David Bowie

Next is “Andy Warhol” by David Bowie, released in 1971 as part of his album Hunky Dory. The song is a tribute to the iconic pop artist Andy Warhol. It reflects Bowie’s fascination with Warhol’s enigmatic persona and his impact on the art world and popular culture.

The song explores themes of fame, celebrity, and artistic expression, drawing parallels between Warhol’s unconventional approach to art and Bowie’s artistic vision. The lyrics reflect Warhol’s distinctive personality and influence on the avant-garde art scene of the 1960s and 1970s.

The track serves as both a tribute to the artist and a reflection on the nature of fame and creativity. It captures the essence of Warhol’s iconic status in the art world and his enduring influence on Bowie and other artists of his generation.

4. “Picasso’s Last Words (Drink To Me)” By Paul McCartney And Wings

A tribute to the legendary Spanish artist Pablo Picasso is up next. Paul McCartney and Wings gives fans “Picasso’s Last Words (Drink to Me).” This masterpiece was released in 1973 as part of their Band on the Run album.

The song’s title refers to an anecdote about Picasso’s final words, which were reportedly “Drink to me, drink to my health. You know I can’t drink anymore.”

McCartney was inspired by this story and incorporated it into the lyrics of the song. The song invites contemplation on mortality, art, and the enduring impact of great creators.

5. “Mona Lisa” By Nat King Cole

Up next we have Nat King Cole‘s “Mona Lisa.” It’s a timeless classic that pays homage to the famous painting of Leonardo da Vinci. This romantic ballad captivates listeners with its smooth vocals and elegant melodies. It perfectly complements the enigmatic beauty of the woman in the painting.

In the song, the singer describes Mona Lisa’s enchanting smile. He observes how her eyes seem to follow you wherever you go, and the way she holds a secret that no one can fully grasp. The painting becomes a symbol of unattainable perfection, leaving the listener both entranced and wistful.

Whether it’s the yearning for unrequited love or the fascination with an enigmatic muse, “Mona Lisa” captures the essence of beauty, mystery, and longing in a timeless masterpiece of music.

6. “You Cezanne” By Greg Percy

Let’s move on to a song inspired by renowned French painter Paul Cezanne. Greg Percy‘s “You Cezanne” explores themes of artistic inspiration and creativity.

Through the songwriter’s admiration and appreciation for Cezanne’s work, the song celebrates the transformative power of art to inspire, provoke thought, and evoke emotion. The song combines art appreciation, historical context, and a touch of humor, making it an enjoyable ode to a masterful artist.

Percy invites listeners through this masterpiece to appreciate Cézanne’s paintings. By honoring his contributions to the world of art, the song inspires a sense of reverence and appreciation for the power of creativity and artistic expression.

7. “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” By The Beatles

Let’s pause from the arts of iconic artists and look at a song inspired by the drawing of a young boy who happens to be the son of The Beatles‘ John Lennon. “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” is part of the band’s album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The inspiration behind the song has been a topic of much speculation and debate over the years. Its title and lyrics have led many to interpret it as a reference to the hallucinogenic drug LSD. Perhaps it’s because of the psychedelic nature of the music and the era in which it was released.

However, Lennon, who wrote the song, maintained that its inspiration came from a drawing made by his young son, Julian. According to Lennon, Julian showed him a painting he had created of a girl named Lucy O’Donnell. Julian told his father, “That’s Lucy in the sky with diamonds.”

8. “Pictures Of Matchstick Men” By Status Quo

In 1968, British rock band Status Quo released “Pictures of Matchstick Men.” The title refers to the paintings of L. S. Lowry, known for his characteristic “matchstick men” figures.

“Pictures of Matchstick Men” captures the psychedelic spirit of the late 1960s. It transports listeners back to an era of artistic experimentation and cultural revolution.

The song gained renewed attention when it was featured in the soundtrack of the blockbuster film Men in Black. Its inclusion in the movie added another layer of cultural significance to its already iconic status. It was also introduced to a new generation of listeners and further solidified its place in popular culture.

9. “Mona Lisa” By Mxmtoon

We are not yet over with the iconic painting of Leonardo da Vinci. Mxmtoon also has a song titled “Mona Lisa,” the lead single of her album, Rising. The lyrics express a vulnerable confession that resonates with anyone who has ever felt invisible or yearned to be seen.

The song draws parallels between the Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile and the mysterious, often incomprehensible nature of the narrator’s emotions. It not only captures the yearning for recognition. It also recognizes the narrator’s hope that someday, their existence will be celebrated and remembered, much like the enigmatic smile of the famous painting.

In a world where noise often drowns out whispers, “Mona Lisa” invites us to pause, reflect, and recognize our shared longing. It’s a song that transcends time, much like the masterpiece it draws inspiration from. So listen closely and perhaps you’ll find a piece of your own story within its notes.

10. “Art School” By The Jam

Traditional art schools were seen as elitist and rigid, favoring specific styles and dismissing others. The Jam rebelled against perceived elitism and conformity by giving a life to the punk rock song, “Art School” in 1977.

The song encourages listeners to pursue their passions without seeking permission or conforming to societal norms. It celebrates the idea that there are no boundaries when it comes to expressing oneself through art, fashion, or personal choices. It emphasizes the power of self-expression and the importance of staying true to one’s unique path.

The Jam’s anthem dismantles the chains of conformity. It invites us to step out of the mold, defy expectations, and dance to our rhythm. Whether we’re artists, dreamers, or rebels, we’re part of this vibrant canvas of life.

11. “Interiors (Song For Willem De Kooning)” By Manic Street Preachers

The Welsh alternative rock band Manic Street Preachers pays homage to the renowned Dutch-American abstract expressionist artist Willem de Kooning through a song titled “Interiors (Song For Willem De Kooning).”

The song looks into the mind of de Kooning, exploring the complexities of his life and art. Through haunting lyrics, the band captures the inner turmoil and creative mind of the artist.

The title “Interiors” hints at the internal landscapes explored by de Kooning in his work. The reference to him in the subtitle emphasizes the song’s focus on his artistic legacy.

The song reverently bows to de Kooning, the master of abstract expressionism. It’s a sonic homage to the way he wielded his brush, capturing raw emotion and chaos on canvas. Just as his art transcends mere paint, this track transcends mere lyrics.

12. “Art For Art’s Sake” By 10cc

Next on our list is 10cc‘s “Art for Art’s Sake” which was released in 1975. This spirited anthem is part of the British rock band’s How Dare You! album.

The title is a reference to the concept of creating art simply for the sake of art itself, without concern for any external validation. 10cc captures the joy and liberation of creating art for its own sake, free from the constraints of commercialism or expectation.

This song is a rallying cry for artists and creators everywhere to embrace their creative impulses and pursue their passion. It’s a timeless reminder of the transformative power of art and the importance of staying true to one’s artistic vision.

13. “Blue Period Picasso” By Peter Bjorn And John

There are times when we want to escape and break free from societal constraints. Just like Picasso during his Blue Period, where he delved into the depths of his emotions and expressed them through his art. Similarly, “Blue Period Picasso” by Peter Bjorn and John captures this desire for introspection and emotional exploration.

The lyrics evoke a sense of longing and struggle. It’s as if the artist is trapped within their creation like a “blue period Picasso stuck on a wall / In the middle of a hall in Barcelona,” longing to be set free. The reference to Barcelona adds an exotic touch. It perhaps symbolizes the contrast between the artist’s inner world and the vibrant external surroundings. 

For listeners who appreciate introspective and emotionally resonant music, “Blue Period Picasso” shines as a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.

14. “Art” By Tyla

If you are looking for a song that is about both the art and the artist then you found the perfect one. Tyla‘s song “Art” is a captivating exploration of desire and the dynamic relationship between the artist and the muse.

The official music video showcases Tyla’s artistic prowess. She poses freely in an ornate gallery in a red corset dress. As the video unfolds, a young man captivated by her flawless beauty realizes that she is not only the inspiration but also the painter.

In a song with “art” in the title, Tyla embodies both the artist and the masterpiece. She invites her lover to explore her like a canvas, creating a unique blend of desire and vulnerability. The lyrics beautifully capture the essence of being treasured and treated like art, a sentiment any heart would resonate with.

15. “Painter Man” By The Creation

Now, we have a spirited and catchy song that celebrates the struggle and inner conflict of an artist. “Painter Man” by The Creation showcases the dynamic and infectious sound of the era’s garage rock movement.

The song portrays the journey of someone who pursued an education in art and gained a degree. And yet they find themselves unnoticed and suppressed. “Went to college, studied art… / Studied hard, gained my degree / But no one seemed to notice me.”

“Painter Man” is a timeless anthem for artists navigating the often-unseen journey of creative expression. This song testifies to the resilience and determination of artists everywhere, urging them to persevere in their pursuit of creative fulfillment.

16. “Art Is Dead” By Bo Burnham

Next on our list is a song with “art” in the lyrics. Bo Burnham‘s “Art is Dead” reflects on the state of art in the modern world. It also looks into the impact of commercialization on artistic expression. It’s proof of how profit-driven industries have overshadowed creativity.

Burnham critiques the pressures artists face to conform to commercial standards and prioritize financial success over genuine artistic expression. He highlights the struggles of artists who feel trapped by the demands of the industry. He also questions whether true artistry can thrive in a culture that prioritizes profit over creativity.

It serves as a sobering reminder of the profound loss incurred when art becomes a mere commodity and a rallying cry for preserving creativity’s true essence.

17. “The Painter” By O-Town

People have different ways of showing their love language. For O-Town‘s “The Painter,” art serves as their most profound expression of love and emotion.

In the song, the narrator imagines being a painter, mixing colors to find the perfect shade of blue that matches the beloved’s eyes. Yet, even the canvas could never fully capture the light of their smile. Similarly, if the narrator were a sculptor working in marble, they couldn’t hope to replicate the perfection of the beloved’s face.

“The Painter” celebrates the universal language of art and its ability to transcend barriers and connect us on a deeper level. It reminds us that, no matter our differences, we all can express ourselves and find beauty in the world around us.

18. “Meet James Ensor” By They Might Be Giants

In 1994, They Might Be Giants released “Meet James Ensor.” This song is about James Ensor, the eccentric Belgian expressionist painter. It captures the spirit of his art and the eccentricity of his personality, blending humor and surrealism to create a playful tribute.

Lyrically, it explores the life and work of the famed artist and references some of his most iconic works. The verses are filled with colorful imagery and clever wordplay, evoking the surreal and fantastical elements often found in Ensor’s art.

Beyond Ensor, the song references other artists and historical figures. Is it worth listening to? Absolutely! If you appreciate unconventional art, wordplay, and a touch of absurdity, give “Meet James Ensor” a listen. It’s a joyful exploration of creativity and individuality.

19. “Magritte” By John Cale

From the HoboSapiens album comes John Cale‘s “Magritte.” It’s a tribute to the Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte, an iconic artist of the 20th century.

Cale draws inspiration from Magritte’s iconic paintings, such as The Son of Man and The Treachery of Images. He explores themes of reality, perception, and the enigmatic nature of art.

“Magritte” is a timeless tribute to the boundless creativity and enduring influence of this artist. It also reflects Cale’s unique musical style and ability to create an atmosphere that resonates with the artist’s vision.

20. “Artists Only” By Talking Heads

In the late 1970s, American rock band Talking Heads released a song that mentions “artists.” The dynamic song “Artists Only” captures the band’s signature blend of new wave, punk, and art rock.

“Artists Only” revolves around the artist’s relentless commitment to their craft. The standout lyric, “Pretty soon now, I will be bitter,” highlights the enduring pressure that artists face. The unspoken demands of the art world can weigh heavily on their shoulders, eventually leading to bitterness.

This song reminds us that art is not only a product but also a reflection of the artist’s emotional journey. It’s an ode to all artists, encouraging them to continue pushing boundaries, embracing ambiguity, and creating without inhibition.

21. “When I Paint My Masterpiece” By Bob Dylan

Here we have a masterpiece by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. “When I Paint My Masterpiece” reflects on the challenges and triumphs of the creative process and the desire to leave a lasting legacy through one’s work.

Throughout the song, the narrator reflects on their past experiences and contemplates the future. The lyrics evoke nostalgia and introspection, as he reminisces about moments from their life.

“When I Paint My Masterpiece” is a deeply personal song. But it also touches on universal themes that resonate with listeners from all walks of life. Whether it’s the pursuit of artistic excellence, the longing for meaning and purpose, or the quest for self-expression, the song speaks to the human experience in a profound and relatable way.

22. “Rene And Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War” By Paul Simon

Next is “Rene and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War” by Paul Simon. It first appeared as the eighth track on his 1983 album Hearts and Bones.

The song pays homage to the surrealist artist René Magritte and his wife, Georgette. It imagines the couple and their dog together during World War II, finding moments of beauty and serenity amid the chaos of war.

The lyrics evoke a sense of nostalgia. They describe the Magrittes strolling down and admiring mannequins dressed in the style that once moved them. The description of the couple and their dog dancing in a hotel room with their love for doo-wop music creates a touching and magical atmosphere.

23. “Max Ernst” By Mission Of Burma

The American band Mission of Burma released “Max Ernst” to pay homage to this German painter and sculptor. The lyrics portray a fascination with Ernst’s unconventional and irrational approach to art.

Lyrically, the song references various aspects of Ernst’s life and work. These include his experimentation with collage techniques, interest in Freudian psychology, and his involvement in the Dada and Surrealist movements. The cryptic and fragmented lyrics evoke the surreal and dreamlike quality of Ernst’s art while also exploring themes of creativity, freedom, and rebellion.

Essentially, “Max Ernst” celebrates the life and legacy of one of the 20th century’s most influential artists. It’s a fitting tribute to Ernst’s pioneering spirit and enduring impact on the world of art.

24. “Picasso Baby” By Jay-Z

The hip-hop track “Picasso Baby” by Jay-Z draws inspiration from the life of the renowned Spanish painter Pablo Picasso. Released as part of Jay-Z’s album Magna Carta… Holy Grail, the song references art, wealth, and fame.

Jay-Z expresses his desire for artistic greatness. He aspires to create something equally impactful in the music world. The song recognizes how Picasso revolutionized the art world. Similarly, Jay-Z’s musical prowess and entrepreneurial spirit have reshaped the landscape of hip-hop and beyond.

In essence, the song draws a parallel between his ambitions and Picasso’s groundbreaking contributions to modern art. In an era where fame and fortune often go hand in hand, “Picasso Baby” challenges us to rethink our notions of success and achievement.

25. “What The Water Gave Me” By Florence & The Machine

Let’s finish this collection with Florence & the Machine‘s “What the Water Gave Me.” This song draws inspiration from the life and work of the renowned Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

In particular, it was inspired by Kahlo’s painting “What the Water Gave Me.” The track explores her experiences of pain and suffering, as well as her ability to find strength and renewal through her art.

As we reflect on the message of this song, we are reminded of the importance of embracing our vulnerabilities and finding strength in our creativity. Let’s allow its water to wash over us, reminding us of our shared humanity, vulnerability, and the beauty that emerges from our depths.

Summing Up Our List Of Art And Artist Songs

Art and artists wield a remarkable influence in our world. From paintings that adorn museum walls to melodies that fill concert halls, art transcends boundaries, connecting people across cultures and generations.

The world of music is vast, and there may be undiscovered gems waiting to be found. Do you have any other songs that celebrate the beauty of art? Share your recommendations with us, and let’s continue to explore the breathtaking synergy between art and music.

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Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.