Artworks Inspired by Music Exhibited at the Malta Society of Arts

An exhibition of around 30 oils on canvas by late artist Frank Briffa will be exhibited at the Art Galleries of the Malta Society of Arts in Valletta between 7 March and 11 April 2024. The exhibition titled Seeing Music, featuring paintings inspired by music, will mark the first time that works by Frank Briffa will be exhibited in Malta. 

Born in Egypt in 1947 to a Maltese father and an Italian mother, Frank Briffa spent his first years in Egypt where his father worked in shipping insurance and as ground crew for the RAF during the war. After the war ended, families with British connections, including those who worked for the British, were expelled from Egypt, forcing Briffa’s family to move to England, where they joined a very active Maltese community in North London. Briffa eventually settled in Newcastle Upon Tyne and remained based in the North of England until his passing in 2021 following a long illness.

Organised by Frank Briffa’s widow, Anne, the exhibition reflects her unwavering commitment to sharing Frank’s legacy with a broader audience. Anne recounts, “During our visit to Malta, Frank immediately connected with the Malta Society of Arts’ space, making it a natural choice for showcasing his works.”

Anne provides insights into Frank’s rich background, sharing anecdotes of a family that spoke Maltese, Italian, and even some Arabic due to their time in Suez. A self-taught artist, Frank’s creative journey thrived in the cultural tapestry of London. His passion for music, coupled with a keen interest in science, led him to pursue a degree in Zoology and a Doctorate in copper toxicity. In 1998, Frank embraced a full-time career as an artist, exhibiting across various cities, including Newcastle, Edinburgh, Manchester, and London.

Seeing Music invites visitors to explore works inspired by Briffa’s profound love for music. “Since 2005 much of my work has had strong associations with music. There are existing links between music and the visual arts such as a shared vocabulary; for example, composition, tonality, colour, chromaticism, texture,” Briffa had explained in an interview. “Some music has the ability to transport us to another place and my paintings are based on pieces of music, which, for me, have this quality. In making these paintings I am not primarily trying to illustrate anything – I am more concerned with trying to find a pictorial equivalent to the musical language, although in some paintings figurative elements do creep in.” 

“I have known the pieces of music that I use over a long time, so they have had time to produce a visual response in me. The paintings that result may be based on an entire piece or on just a few bars from a large composition. The composers I have used include Nielsen, Janacek, Mahler, Martinu, Schoenberg, Berg, Rimsky-Korsakov, JS Bach, Delius, Bartok, Meredith Monk and Charles Ives, a composer who has had a particular influence on my work,” concluded Briffa.

The exhibition will include some of Anne’s favourite paintings by her late husband. “Personally, I’m very attached to Sibelius 5, which we used on the poster. It relates to the final movement of composer Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5 which ends with six chords, where 1 to 5 are evenly spaced but 5 to 6 are close together, represented by the black marks. Another painting which came off my dining room walls to fly to Malta for the exhibition is Martinu 3, inspired by the Czech composer Martinu who had fled to the US during the war, and which depicts elements of traditional Czech music. The third painting which is close to my heart is The Creatures of Prometheus, a series of four small works which hang together. This was Frank’s penultimate oil painting, inspired by Beethoven’s ballet with the same name. It tells the story of how the Gods and Muses made the ‘Creatures’ more human by exposing them to music, tragedy, comedy, dance and wine.”

MSA President Arch. Adrian Mamo commends Anne’s dedication to showcasing Frank’s work in Malta: “Frank’s multicultural background and his profound connection to music have beautifully manifested in the artworks that we are exhibiting. This exhibition not only celebrates Frank’s artistic legacy but also fosters a deeper appreciation for the intersection of visual arts and music, so we invite everyone to join us on this cultural journey.”

Seeing Music by the late artist Frank Briffa is on at the Art Galleries of the Malta Society of Arts, 219, Republic Street, Valletta, between 7 March and 11 April. It is closed on Sundays and Public Holidays 19 and 31 March. Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9am to 7pm, and Saturdays 9am to 1pm. Entrance is free. For more details about the exhibition please visit or


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