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History of Jazz: Jazz and Modern Painting

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Armstrong and O'Keefe.
  3. Matisse and swing.
  4. Mondrian and boogie woogie.
  5. Pollock and bebop.
  6. Warhol and hard bop.
  7. Pollock and free Jazz.
  8. Conclusion.

Ideas in the worlds of music and art have probably cross-pollinated from the beginning. The lush and passionate colors, rhythms, and themes of the Romantic painters like Eugene Delacroix mirror the lush and passionate melodies, movements, and moods of the Romantic composers like Beethoven. The serene and atmospheric feel of Impressionist painters like Monet finds sonic expression through composers such as Claude Debussy. Likewise, modern painting of the 20th century has stylistically acknowledged the progressions of jazz from its golden age of Swing to its highbrow peak into abstraction via Bebop to its fragmentation into Cool and Hard Bop.

[...] Synesthesia rules, and the painting swings.? Thus, Mondrian absorbed components of one of the important building blocks of jazz piano, Boogie Woogie, into his paintings, revitalizing his career in the process. Pollock and Bebop Bebop and Abstract Expressionism are probably the easiest movements in which to find correlations between the parallel developments of jazz and modern painting. For one thing, the movements developed simultaneously at the same time and place: New York in the 1940's. It's been noted that Jackson Pollock was an avid jazz fan and that early as 1945, in fact, one prescient critic . [...]


[...] Thus, more often than not, the prominent European artists of the day were delayed by a few years in their aesthetic reactions to jazz while American artists like Georgia O'Keefe were reflecting the influence of, for example, Louis Armstrong's musical innovations almost simultaneously as they hit the scene. Subject to this trend, Henri Matisse's residence in France delayed the influence of jazz being visible in his work by almost ten years. In his series from 1947, twelve years after Benny Goodman's historic Palomar Ballroom concert, Matisse shows how he's only recently digested the sonic conventions of Swing. [...]


[...] Here the prominent jazz and painting styles of the day cross-pollinated with the component of representation or, more specifically, subject matter. Lichenstein, Warhol, and other Pop artists were visually expressing what Davis and other Hard Bop musicians were doing: using foundations of commercial material, familiar to the masses, as springboards to put across more high-brow, less accessible artistic statements. In a cynical sense, one could say that Davis and the Pop artists were using a pop guise to cover up or sweeten what they were really trying to get across, a cynicism, a growing unrest, and at least with the Pop artists, a sense of irony. [...]

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