ON the wall of his studio, the French composer Claude Debussy kept a framed print of Katsushika Hokusai’s ‘Under The Wave of Kanagawa’. It’s one of those paintings where you might not recognise the title but you’d know it if you saw it: that iconic Japanese picture of a great swirling wave, with Mount Fuji in the background.

Debussy had always had an interest in the sea, but this picture in particular piqued his interest. It became the inspiration for one of his most famous pieces, La Mer.

This week, I dropped in to the Salisbury Museum to see their new exhibition of work by the artist Brian Graham. In Towards Music, Graham has created a visual interpretation of the early development of music and dance, with each artwork relating to a different composer or dancer. In a full circle way, the opening picture in the exhibit is La Mer for Claude Debussy – an example of art inspired by music, which in turn was inspired by a piece of art. Other pieces featured draw on everyone from John Cage to Miles Davis, Holst to Handel.

Debussy and Graham aren’t the only ones to draw inspiration in this way. They are part of a rich stream of cross-fertilisation between art and music, with practitioners in both fields trying to catch the essence of the other.

Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, for example, was inspired by a series of drawings by Victor Hartmann.

Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George took its starting point from Serault’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

In the early 1970s, Bob Dylan took painting lessons from Norman Raeben – the techniques he learned there in terms of style and observation he went on to use in songs such as Tangled Up in Blue.

On the other side of the musical tracks, artists such as Kandinsky, Georgia O’Keefe and Whistler have all attempted to capture on canvas the harmony, flow and rhythm of music.

Modernist painters such as Stuart Davis were heavily influenced by jazz in their work. Paul Klee, meanwhile, developed a love of classical music from an early age, and would go on to produce art based on Bach, Offenbach and Mozart.

Following on from the wow-factor of the Museum’s previous Terry Pratchett exhibition, Towards Music is (ironically, given the subject), a quieter, subtler show. But it is one with an atmosphere and message of its own, and one that indelibly leaves its impression in a different, equally powerful way.

Graham’s exhibition doesn’t directly answer how music first came about, instead creating the space for those viewing to explore for themselves.

Towards Music is at Salisbury Museum until Saturday 12 May.