Women’s Intonation

Welcome all! This is “Music Monday” for March 8th 🙂

Maria Callas, Leontyne Price, Cecilia Bartoli, Joan Sutherland, Angela Gheorghiu. That’s a mere sampling of some of the great female singing voices. And that’s just the opera category! Drift into other music forms and the list will expand tenfold – Edith Piaf, Patsy Cline, Judy Garland, Sarah McClachlan, Dianne Reeves, Stevie Nicks, Jill Scott, Aretha Franklin, Julie Andrews . . . I have to stop typing right there because I could conceivably gone on and on and on . . .

This post is not intended to be a “battle of the sexes” debate over female versus male singing voices. I enjoy both and have many favorites. But I will just mention that there is probably more diversity to be found among female voices. I mean, consider the names I just listed above. If that isn’t an astonishingly mixed array of voices, styles, and tones then I don’t know what is. A truly great female singer has extraordinary range and a profound capacity for expression.

More relevant to this blog post is that a singing woman makes for a better art subject than a man. In the faces, the clothing, costumes and accessories, the posture and gestures, the sight of a woman performing a song is emotionally intimate and visually appealing. No offense guys!

In this painting, The Concert Singer, the American artist Thomas Eakins does an amazing job in both color and composition. From her facial expression and her stance, all the way down to the fabric and detail on the dress, Eakins created a fine work here. And I love that he included the conductor’s hand in the lower left corner. Nice touch!

Next are two stunning pastel works by Degas which actually provided the impetus and inspiration for this post. The man was a marvel at this kind of subject. Dancers rehearsing, musicians playing, concert singers and cabaret acts, Degas had a keen talent for depicting the musical and performing arts fields with great beauty.

Singer in Green:

In this one, The Concert Singer, the raised hand gesture perfectly illustrates the theatrics of a live singing performance:

One of my favorite female opera singers is mezzo-soprano Frederica Von Stade. This is her performing with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, an aria from Jacques Offenbach’s operetta La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein

Kees van Dongen captured his subject in true Fauvist style. You can almost feel the voice belting out of her. Look at that mouth! This is Soprano Singer:

Louis Welden Hawkins’ Girls Singing Music by Gabriel Fabry, 1903:

*My father would have turned 78 years old today.
Happy Birthday Daddy . . . we miss you 😥

7 thoughts on “Women’s Intonation

  1. Excellent & yes, Degas has it nailed!

    As for range, expression, nuance, -and yes, pleasurable to watch, I agree the female singers top the list.

    However for strange, I can’t thing of any female equivalents of Tom Waits, Dylan, or Leonard Cohen, can you? Hum, I wonder what that means?

  2. Alex says:

    “To shallow rivers, to whose falls
    Melodious birds sings madrigals;
    There will we make our beds of roses,
    And a thousand fragrant posies.”

    -William Shakespeare. Merry Wives of Windsor. Act III Scene I.

  3. Lori Gordon says:

    Degas has such brilliant use of color – aquamarine with the oranges and yellows. I wonder if the costumes were, in fact, that vivid and exceptionally coordinated on the stage back then, or if he styled his own colorful world on canvas… I think you’ve introduced me to a new favorite of Degas’, Claudia!


    • artmodel says:


      He’s amazing, isn’t he? Degas is one of those artists whose work I never get tired of. That’s interesting what you said about the colors of the costumes. Given Degas’ proficiency and creativity with color, he may have taken liberties. Either way, it certainly enhances the subject matter beautifully.

      Thanks for commenting!


  4. Ken says:

    Degas and footlighting. In the early theater, footlighting was common, often the only lighting. And Degas’ art shows clearly that the source of the light is from below.

    When I model in the winter, I get cold. Heaters don’t necessarily provide the best working environment, as the blown hot air tends to dry me out (especially my eyes). I now bring my own heater, which is infrared. No blowing air. It also uses much less electricity and casts a light hue quite similar to either sunset or sunrise. Which is apropos, as the heater sits on the floor and shines upward. I’ve even posed chiaroscuro with just my infrared heater as the light source.

    So now I’ll just say that the artists should render me as if they were Degas!

    • artmodel says:


      You come prepared! That’s a good thing. Some of the schools I model for have the infrared heaters. Others still use those blown hot air things. I’m ok with either as far as my warmth is concerned but you’re right about the added glow. Nice effect.


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