Arkadische Melodie is one of Ernst Wilhelm Nay's celebrated Scheibenbilder (Disc Paintings), which obsessed the artist for over eight years between 1954 and 1962. Painted in 1957, it represents the height of Nay's experimentation in this new and unique formal language. In describing his working method, Nay explained:
"If I set a coloured dot on an empty surface an astonishing number of tensions were created. If I spread out the dot, the tensions increased. A second such disc, a third, a fourth - all the same size, already created a highly complicated formal relation. A number of colours also emerged if I made each disc a different colour, they could be regarded as a chromic sequence. The spaces between created forms and could be developed quite mechanically with the same colours in a specific alternation, creating a corrugated surface so that interlinking resulted... This way of experimenting with a pictorial whole enabled endless variations..." (E.W. Nay, in: Nay Retrospektive, exh. cat., Josef-Haubrich-Kunsthalle, Cologne 1991, pp. 36-37.)
The Scheibenbilder represent the culmination of the working methods Nay applied in his Rhythmische Bilder (Rhythmic Pictures) of the early 1950s, as well as the Fugale Bilder (Fugal Paintings) of the late 1940s, and Arkadische Melodie clearly picks up on the themes of these earlier works, exploring not only "surface tension", but also and especially a "surface choreography".
The Post-War period in Germany was dominated by the debate between the predominance of either figurative or abstract art, and one way to justify abstraction was to draw the parallels between painting and music. The present work's title, Arkadische Melodie can thus be seen as an attampt at capturing the most ethereal and abstract of concepts into visual form.