Ekphrastic Poetry Project

art inspired by art


Ekphrastic, or ekphrasis, is a Greek word described by Webster’s dictionary as “a literary description of, or commentary on, a visual work of art.” Our goal is to create and connect inspiration to visual works of art in Maryhill Museum of Art’s rich collections. This is art inspired by art.

Ekphrastic poetry and artmaking are part of a long tradition. It works in several ways. In one way, poetry inspires objects and another, objects inspire poetry. Many Greek vases are covered with artwork that tell the story of the Trojan war from the epic poem, The Iliad, written by Homer sometime in the 8th century BCE. The poet John Keats wrote Ode on a Grecian Urn in 1819 after contracting tuberculosis; his poem examines the close relationship between art, beauty, and truth, as well as the fragility of it all.


Maryhill Museum wants to inspire the art of poetry!

We invite YOU to view objects from the museum’s collection and then write, and/or perform, an original poem inspired by one of our artworks.

Use the resources below to get inspired by artworks from Maryhill’s collections and online exhibitions.

Image: Eanger Irving Couse, (American, 1866–1936), In the Trees (detail), c. 1898, oil on canvas, 36” x 41”; from the collection of George W. Shane Jr., Collection of Maryhill Museum of Art