Louis Kahan: The Great Music Makers



Drawing of Jascha Heifetz by Louis Kahan, c1968. Gift of ANZ Bank, 1987. Arts Centre Melbourne, Public Art Collection.

It goes without saying, a performer is only of interest to us when he is playing, when he is involved in the music, lives the music, is in communion with the composer as it were … That is the moment I am trying to capture. – Louis Kahan AO

Completed over a 58-year period, The Great Music Makers series offers both an insight into the development of Kahan’s artistic practice and a visual record of some of the greatest music makers of our time. The drawings represent the culmination of a lifetime of astute observation, refined draughtsmanship and an appreciation of the transience of the musical performance. Whether through the subtle gesture of pencil on paper, or the more assured markings of pen or ink, each drawing brings to life a well-known Australian or international composer, conductor, musician or singer, captured by Kahan during a dress rehearsal, performance, or chance encounter.

From a very young age, Louis Kahan was captivated by the world of music. His uncle, an opera singer, used to take him to performances, and he and his sister used to queue for hours at the State Opera in his home town of Vienna. His father was a tailor with many clients from the world of theatre and opera,and young Kahan would draw them when they came in for fittings in exchange for tickets to performances and access to rehearsals.

As Kahan’s artistic career developed, capturing life in motion became a recurrent theme. From designing fanciful costumes for film and stage, to documenting the veracities of life as a war artist and draughtsman reporter, Kahan developed an undeniable talent for capturing the essence of his subjects with speed and accuracy.

The Great Music Makers series was generously donated to Arts Centre Melbourne’s Public Art Collection by the ANZ Bank in 1987. A selection of works from the series is currently on display in the St Kilda Road Foyer, Arts Centre Melbourne until 27 July 2014. Works from The Great Music Makers series along with costume and set designs by Louis Kahan can be viewed online here.

Louis Kahan: The Great Music Makers

St Kilda Road Foyer, Arts Centre Melbourne

22 March- 27 July 2014

9am to late daily


Published by

Performing Arts Collection

Arts Centre Melbourne's Performing Arts Collection is the national leader among specialist performing arts collections in Australia. Established in 1975, it is formally recognised as a State collection and encompasses the history of circus, dance, music, opera and theatre. The Collection features over 640,000 items including costumes, designs, photographs, set models, puppets, props, posters, programs and archives.

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