The Paintings of Miles Davis

Ask enough people to name their favorite artist of any kind, and sooner rather than later, someone will name Miles Davis. The trumpeter and jazz auteur behind — or, strictly speaking, up in front of — such unchallenged masterpieces as Birth of the Cool, Kind of BlueSketches of Spain, and Bitches Brew has long since ascended to the pantheon of American music, but that doesn’t mean we should overlook his other artistic achievements. Achievements as a painter, for instance: true fans know that Davis’ visual art appears on a few of his album covers, such as that of 1989’s Amandla right below.  “Painting, long a Davis avocation, is becoming a profitable sideline,” says a contemporary Los Angeles Times article. “In collaboration with his girlfriend, Jo Gelbard, he did the artwork for his new album; the cover is an impressive self-portrait using the reds and greens he seems to favor.”

You can see more of Davis’ visual art over at Dangerous Minds and The Daily Beast. The so-called Prince of Darkness “didn’t begin to draw and paint in earnest until he was in his mid-fifties, during the early 1980s and a period of musical inactivity,” writes Tara McGinley. ”

Miles being Miles, he didn’t merely dabble, but made creating art as much a part of his life as making music in his final decade,” resulting in “a sharp, bold and masculine mixture of Kandinsky, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Picasso and African tribal art.” Just last year, Insight Editions published Miles Davis: The Collected Artwork, finally bringing together the fruits of the creativity the trumpeter could command even without his horn. Countless young jazz players claim Davis as an influence to this day, and they’ll continue to do so as long as jazz itself persists, but I do wonder how soon young painters will as well.

via Dangerous Minds

Related Content:

Miles Davis Plays Music from Kind of Blue Live in 1959, Introducing a Completely New Style of Jazz

Watch Animated Sheet Music for Miles Davis’ “So What,” Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation” & Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”

The Night When Miles Davis Opened for the Grateful Dead in 1970: Hear the Complete Recordings

Miles Davis’ “South Side Chicago Chili Mack” Recipe Revealed

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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Comments (13)
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  • zen says:

    Love the Music. The art is poor.

  • Gsyle says:

    I have a painting done by Miles… his grandson gifted it to us for an auction item for a benefit. It didn’t sell for the suggested minimum. Not my style of art, but love it because if who the painter is and the circumstances behind it.

  • Eugene C. Daymude says:


    What is the piece and what was the reserve? Do you have any paperwork to accompany the painting?

    Thank you.

    Eugene C. Daymude

  • Ryan Acker says:

    U must not know what art is then.

  • Ryan Acker says:

    The message I sent is replying to zen

  • Pryor Lawson says:

    To my untrained eye, it looks like he was influenced by Basquiat. I don’t know the timeline, of course. Anyway, not a bad guy to be influenced by, if you’re gonna be influenced.

  • Arjan says:

    Very eighties, Basquiat influenced works. A little poor, second rate art. Not much to enjoy for the art lover. The signature is the most interesting part of the paintings.

  • nancy Lennie says:

    Miles was a brilliant horn player and his art was as well.
    He was painting in the style that still isnt appreciated by many called abstact expressionism and absurb art. Jasper Johns,Rothko, Serra, Honig, Eva Hesse, and the whole New york art scene was leaning this way in the 70’s and Miles fits right in. His work would be shown now at the Guggenheim or MOMA without a doubt, and bought for itself not just the Miles name. His work in all phases fits intoday as we are just catching up with these styles.

  • Tomas C. says:

    Where can I buy Miles Davis art prints and copies of his art work.

  • Kees says:

    Hi Gsyle,

    Do you still have that painting by Miles Davis? Can you send
    Me a picture of the painting?


  • Jack Henry Ketchum says:

    Hardly an accurate description, Arjan.

  • Jackie Thompson says:

    I’m interested in purchasing artwork posters of Miles

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