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This was the first significant work Leighton painted after he returned to London from his studies on the Continent.The title refers to the ‘Songs without Words’ the girl is listening to: the sound of the gently trickling water and the singing of the blackbird behind her. Leighton knew many of his viewers would connect it with Mendelssohn's set of piano pieces of the same title, which were very popular in England at this time. The subject’s ‘timelessness’, and the harmony of composition and colouring, suggest the power of music to evoke specific moods.

July 2007