Cezanne painted this work at Jas de Bouffan, an estate near Aix which belonged to his parents. The figures here are the artist’s mother and sister. Music-making was a popular theme with innovatory artists at this time and the subtitle of the work, “The Overture to Tannhauser”, recalls Richard Wagner, who had become the symbol of the new kind of art. Restrained and tense in its colouring, which is based largely on a contrast of black and white, the painting has a strangely positive mood. The composition is balanced, with a sense of enclosure and unity, people and objects forming a single material world. The intimate scene has nothing everyday about it, and seems to have been transformed into something sublime and ceremonial. A friend of the Impressionists, showing his works at their exhibitions, Cezanne nonetheless soon discovered that his was a totally different view of the world, and took his own, independent artistic path.