selected bibliography

the bookshop also offers a selection of books that relate to each temporary exhibition and which will enable you to extend and deepen your visit.

it can be downloaded (in .pdf form) by clicking here

related events

many special activities will take place as part of The Jazz Century exhibition...

* the Trio Boi Akih music salon on March 14th 

* the Africa jazz series of concerts, accompanied by conferences and meetings centred around jazz from March 20th to 28th 

* guided tours of the exhibition starting on March 21st 

* Early evening jazz on April 4th 

* meetings in the Jacques Kerchache Reading Room on April 18th and May 17th 

* spring holiday program in New Orleans from April 11th to 19th 

* series of films from May 14th to 24th (programme timetable to be confirmed)

Josephine Baker est aux Folies Bergères (Michel Gyarmathy, 1927) © New York, Collection Rennert
Josephine Baker est aux Folies Bergères (Michel Gyarmathy, 1927) © New York, Collection Rennert
Ascenseur pour l'Echafaud, film de Louis Malle, 1957 - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
Ascenseur pour l'Echafaud, film de Louis Malle, 1957
Portrait de Billie Holiday, Carl Van Vechten, 1949 - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
Portrait de Billie Holiday, Carl Van Vechten, 1949

sponsored by



2008-2009 season

The Jazz Century

jazz century


Garden Gallery

temporary exhibition ticket or twin ticket

from March 17th to June 28th 2009

curator: Daniel Soutif

Jazz, along with cinema and rock music, stands as one of the major artistic events of the 20th century. The sounds and rhythms of this hybrid musical style have left their mark on world culture.

The exhibition, created by the philosopher and art critic Daniel Soutif, presents the chronological relationship between jazz and the graphic arts throughout the entire 20th century. From painting to photography, cinema to literature, without forgetting graphic design or comics, the exhibition pays particular attention to the development of jazz in Europe and France during the 1930s and 40s.


Minnie The Moocher

Les vidéos du site sont consultables à l'aide du plugin Flash. Vous pouvez le télécharger gratuitement à l'adresse suivante : Dans ce film, Stéphane Martin, président du musée, présente les principaux aspects du musée : le jardin, l'architecture, l'accueil, le plateau des collections avec sa rivière et les mezzanines.

the exhibition includes many sound and video clips. Amongst these, the soundies, the ancestors of the video-clip. Below is an example of these brought to you by the museum...

Courtesy of Mark Cantor - Celluloid Improvisations Music Film Archive

the exhibition plan

Life, 1 July 1926 (F.G. Cooper, 1926) © Collection Philippe Baudoin - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
Life, 1 July 1926 (F.G. Cooper, 1926) © Collection Philippe Baudoin

The exhibition is organised into ten chronological sections which are linked together by a timeline, a vertical cabinet which runs through the whole exhibition displaying works of art, objects and documents, illustrated score sheets, records and cover sleeves, photographs, etc., which directly evoke the main events in the history of jazz.

This timeline is the exhibition's common thread and corresponds to the different sections, each of which are subdivided into thematic or monographic categories.

1. Pre 1917

Of course it is impossible to pinpoint the exact date when jazz was "born", but 1917 has long been considered a pivotal year. Indeed, it was marked by two decisive events: one was the closure of Storyville, New Orleans' red-light district, where the famous pleasure houses were one of the melting pots where jazz was formed. Their disappearance would drive musicians towards the northern states of the US, to Chicago and New York in particular. The second decisive event was the recording of, if not the first jazz record, then at least the first record with the word “jazz” on the sleeve (or, to be more precise, “jass”). This 78rpm record by the Original Dixieland ‘Jass’ Band included two songs: Livery Stable Blues and Dixie Jass Band One Step.

This nascent music phenomenon - which had not yet revolutionised the 20th century - evolved from earlier musical expressions: minstrels, gospel, cake-walk, ragtime, etc. These had equally inspired many artists well before this date: African-Americans, Americans like Stuart Davis or Europeans like Pablo Picasso.

2. The “Jazz Age” in America 1917-1930

The second section describes the fantastic vogue for jazz which marked American culture after the First World War. Indeed, it was so fashionable that once F. Scott Fitzgerald had used the term “Jazz Age” in the title of one of his books, this would regularly be used to define the whole era, the entire generation and not just its soundtrack.

This section opens with the work by Man Ray specifically titled Jazz (1919) and gathers various other American artists or artists living in the United States such as James Blanding Sloan, Miguel Covarrubias and Jan Matulka.

The King of Jazz, John Murray Anderson’s extraordinary film about Paul Whiteman, dramatically marks the end of these years, known as the “wild” years.

Interpretation of Harlem Jazz (Winold Reiss, 1925) © Collection particulière - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
Interpretation of Harlem Jazz (Winold Reiss, 1925) © Collection particulière

3. Harlem Renaissance 1917-1936

One of the most noteworthy aspects of the Jazz Age period is the blossoming of African-American culture in Harlem (and in other big American cities) in which music played a central role. 

Throughout the 1920s, under the leadership of a few eminent figures like Carl van Vechten and Winold Reiss, numerous artists (African-American or otherwise) produced a considerable amount of literary as well as visual works in which music music appeared as a key feature. This section of the exhibition provides the opportunity to discover paintings, drawings and illustrations by Aaron Douglas, Archibald Motley, Palmer Hayden and Albert Alexander Smith, to name but a few.

4. The “Jazz Age” in Europe 1917-1930

Europeans discovered syncopated rhythms through James Reese Europe’s military orchestra. This was soon followed by shows from Harlem and especially by the world famous “Revue Nègre” - a periodical which launched Josephine Baker's parisian career and brought fame to the poster artist, Paul Colin.

From Jean Cocteau to Francis Picabia, from Kees van Dongen to Fernand Léger, the jazz bug would penetrate every cultural facet of the Old Continent during the interwar period. In 1918, the Dadaist artist Marcel Janco named one of his important canvases “Jazz” … This section also evokes the parisian séjours of certain Harlem Renaissance figures, such as Albert Alexander Smith.

The task of illustrating this “Tumulte Noir” fell to Paul Colin who did so through his famous portfolio.

Louis and Earl. Hot Jazz Classics. Columbia Records Set Number C-73 (Alex Steinweiss, 1940) © Paris, Collection privée - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
Louis and Earl. Hot Jazz Classics. Columbia Records Set Number C-73 (Alex Steinweiss, 1940) © Paris, Collection privée

5. The Swing Years 1930-1939

After the Jazz Age, Swing came into fashion and large orchestras, like those of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller, would get the masses dancing throughout the 1930s.

With the advent of sound in cinema, many films could express the musical revolution of the period, encouraging prestigious artists such as Frantisek Kupka or the realist Thomas Hart Benton to draw their inspiration from jazz music's seductive syncopated rhythms. During this period, the majority of the artists who had emerged within the context of the Harlem Renaissance, such as Carl van Vechten, naturally continued to work whilst other African-American painters like William H. Johnson began to come to light.

6. War Time 1939-1945

The Second World War deeply impacted world culture. Army music and other V-Discs appeared on all fronts. Naturally, jazz was equally affected by the tragedy of war, as were the other domains over which it exerted some form of influence. Thus, it was during these years that Piet Mondrian, who had immigrated to New York, discovered the Boogie Woogie which would have a definitive impact on his major mature works. Simultaneously in Paris, whilst the "Zazous" manifest their opposition to the occupation in an ironic, albeit not risky manner through the Zoot Suit! - which probably got its name from Cab Calloway — Dubuffet became drawn to the music listened to by these young people and consequentially produced a series of superb paintings and drawings. As regards Matisse, he created his famous Jazz in 1943 … In terms of American dance, the Jitterbug was now in fashion, immortalised in a magnificent series of paintings by William H. Johnson.

The end of the decade witnessed a fundamentally important event, namely the creation of the first Columbia album cover by the yet unknown graphic artist Alex Steinweiss…

Portrait of a musician (Thomas Hart Benton, 1949) © T.H and R.P. Benton Testamentary Trusts / Adagp, Paris 2009 - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
Portrait of a musician (Thomas Hart Benton, 1949) © T.H and R.P. Benton Testamentary Trusts / Adagp, Paris 2009

7. Bebop 1945-1960

The end of the war coincided with the advent of Bebop, a musical revolution launched by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and a few others. Jazz was undergoing a modern revolution.

In the world of painting, abstract expressionism, or Action Painting, was getting ready to see the light of day. Some of the figures who would later become the movement's stars found their inspiration not only among the European artists living in exile in the United States during the war, but also in the jazz they listened to tirelessly. This was notably the case with Jackson Pollock. Larry Rivers, a figurative painter who was nonetheless close to the spirit of this movement, was also a saxophonist and dedicated several paintings to the music he was passionate about. Romare Bearden, an African-American figurative but undoubtedly modern artist, produced many works of art connected to the music of his community. In Europe, Nicolas de Staël dedicated some of his most important paintings to a musical style that still attracted young people in their masses… this would soon be swept away by rock music.

These post-war years would also see the growth of a new artistic field which, though minor, still proved fascinating: that of the record cover. Both anonymous and famous graphic artists, such as Andy Warhol, devoted themselves to seducing music lovers through a 30 x 30cm format. As a mass consumer of images, this applied art form would give some of photography's biggest names, notably Lee Friedlander, a brilliant start to their careers. Other very specialised photographers, such as Herman Leonard, would acquire a significant reputation through this medium.

1950s cinema was often permeated by modern jazz which easily adapted its rhythms and expressive colors to the screen's black and white images. Among the dozens of feature films, the most representative are: “Ascenseur pour l’échafaud” by Louis Malle (with the music of Miles Davis) and Shadows by John Cassavetes (with the music of Charlie Mingus).

8. West Coast Jazz 1949-1960

Conventional jazz history would have us believe that Bebop was black and came from New York and that West Coast Jazz emerged under Hollywood's gaze to provide a "fresh and refined" response which certain qualified as effeminate. With quite a large degree of qualification, this way of seeing things is not entirely untrue. Comparing the graphic art on the sleeves of records made on both costs illustrates this opposition: blondes on sun-drenched beaches in the photographs of the west coast by William Claxton, geometric lettering and portraits of black musicians on the east coast… Many famous jazzmen from the West Coast, who were indeed mainly white, made a comfortable living composing music for Hollywood films which bear their distinctive touch… This, however, did not stop them from going to jam on Sundays in the clubs, of which Howard Rumsey’s Lighthouse would remain the most potent symbol.

Two Musicians (James Weeks, 1960) © San Francisco, Museum of Art - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
Two Musicians (James Weeks, 1960) © San Francisco, Museum of Art

9. The Free Revolution 1960-1980

In 1960 Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz album was released. The double meaning implied by its title and the reproduction of Jackson Pollock's White Light on the cover inaugurated a new era. The modern period was to give way to the free avant-garde...

This “Free revolution” coincided with the black freedom movement— Black Power, Black Muslims, Black Panthers, etc. — and had its counterpart in the art world in the work of new, leading artists such as Bob Thompson. During this period, Europe conceived its own version of Free music which it unveiled during performances close to the spirit of the Fluxus movement. Pier Paolo Pasolini's "Notes for an African Orestes" (Appunti per un Orestiade africana) feautre amongst the many upshots of this revolution. In this astonishing cinematographic draft, Pasolini calls upon Gato Barbieri's free jazz improvisations to tell the story of both Aeschylus and Africa.

The Block (Romare Howard Bearden, 1971), collection particulière © Adagp, Paris 2009
The Block (Romare Howard Bearden, 1971), collection particulière © Adagp, Paris 2009

10. Contemporaries 1980-2002

The visual arts regularly began using the adjective "contemporary" throughout the 1960s, probably because the word “modern” no longer corresponded to the new forms which were emerging. The term "contemporary jazz", remains fresh, even to this day: in the “Jazz Worlds” (to use the title of a book by André Hodeir), the different eras exist side by side and nowadays, they sometimes merge and blend. The exhibition gives an outline of the past two decades by highlighting the dominance of three distinct movements: the first, under the leadership of Wynton Marsalis, historicises Bebop in an almost academic way following the example of so-called classical music and regularly takes it uptown onto the distinguished stage of the Lincoln Art Center in New York; the second, with John Zorn at the forefront, pursues and develops the libertarian and avant-garde tradition inherited from Free and which settled Downtown in the small, independent clubs where Jewish composers are often celebrated — "Great Jewish Music" is the title of a series of records by Zorn with a notable tribute album to Serge Gainsbourg; the third is, in brief, the rest of the world and Europe in particular where many very talented musicians demonstrate the universality of jazz and its multiple descendants with few references to the American model.

Moreover, jazz’s presence in contemporary art remains considerable. This is demonstrated by Jean-Michel Basquiat who, despite his brief career, imbued many of his works with the spirit of Black Music. It is equally true of the videos by Adrian Piper and Lorna Simpson, and the wonderful photograph by Jeff Wall inspired by the Ralph Ellison’s prologue to The Invisible Man.

The conclusion to the exhibition is provided by the legendary African-American artist, David Hammons, with his monumental 1989 installation enitled Chasing the Blue Train. With its small toy train running non-stop, its piles of coal and its piano lids propped up on their sides, Hammons suggests that though the 20th century - the jazz century - is over, the train of music that accompanied it remains in sure motion.