Visual Artists inspired by Jazz

Artist often derive inspiration from various media. These are a couple painters who were inspired by Jazz.

Artists often derive inspiration from various media. From photography, by Carl Van Vechten, who documented important figures of Jazz culture, to famous painters like Stuart Davis, who used Jazz sounds to inspire his composition. Included are also other homages made by artist to the Gallery. 

Hollywood Jazz: 1945-1972 is a mural created by artist Richard Wyatt. It was commissioned by the Los Angeles Jazz Society in October 1990. Located on the south wall of the Capitol Records Building, it depicts legendary jazz musicians, Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Charlie Parker, Tito Puente, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Shelly Manne, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington. Etched on a stone background, the mural also depicts the names of dozens more jazz legends including John Coltrane, Sarah Vaughan, and Charles Mingus. After over two decades of deterioration the mural had seriously deteriorated. In November 2011, Capitol Records recommissioned Wyatt to restore the mural which lasted 15-months. Originally a painting, the mural was transformed into photos that were fired onto thousands of hand-glazed ceramic tiles. Its new medium ensures the mural will last for many more decades. 

Hollywood Jazz, 1945-1972 by Richard Wyatt
Credit: Photo: Andrew Dunn/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Stuart Davis was an American artist who work abstractly. His themes include jazz and he incorporated elements of improvisation within his art, as can be seen in his famous work The Mellow Pad, started in 1945.  

Check out this video!

The Mellow Pad
Credit: Stuart Davis / No restrictions/ Brooklyn Museum

Roy DeCarava was an American photographer from the Harlem Renaissance. He captured black and white images of African American Jazz artists in the 1940s and 50s. 

Roy DeCarava
Credit: Wikipedia/Fair Use

Lesson Plan

Discussion Questions

How did the artists use Jazz in their work? Think subject matter and composition. 

How does the work of Stuart Davis reflect the improvisational nature of jazz? 

Why do you think jazz inspired these artists? What is its power...and its beauty?

If you were to create an art piece and use Jazz as the theme what would you include?


Students can look at a variety of art styles and make connections between a single theme.

Discussing Jazz in art allows students to make connections between art and art movements (i.e. The Harlem Renaissance) and how art reflects culture. 

Students relate specific artists, Stuart Davis and Roy DeCarava, and their backgrounds to musicians such as Nate King Cole. In addition, the connections reveal the power of artists and the heroic qualities necessary to compose these unique works.

Looking at visual artists' interpretations of jazz music and the performers gives us an additional window into the soul of jazz.


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Organizer created on 2/17/2020 12:34:20 AM by Giselle Villatoro

Last edited 3/16/2022 12:04:13 PM by Laura Nietzer