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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