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Harlem Jazz Jamboree

Norman Lewis (American, 1909–1979)


Height x width: 18 x 16 in. (45.7 x 40.6 cm)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Oil on canvas

On View

John Axelrod Gallery (Gallery 326)





Born and raised in Harlem, Norman Lewis began his formal artistic training at the New York Vocational High School, studying commercial design and drawing. He later attended the Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts and studied at the John Reed Club Art School from 1933-35. Lewis was a central figure in the African American community and a member of the “306” group of artists, writers, poets, and performing artists who met at 306 East 141st Street. In 1937 he formed the federally funded Harlem Community Art Center, where he taught, and was employed by the Federal Art Project funded by the Works Progress Administration.

Lewis lived and worked in the center of the jazz world, which inspired many of his compositions. His early paintings of the 1930s and 40s reveal his interest in Social Realism. In this scene, the artist vividly portrays the energy and variety of characters that populated Harlem’s jazz clubs. Lively black outlines punctuated with brilliant red paint delineate the silhouettes, poses, gestures, and expressions at the jamboree. Whether singing, playing, smoking, listening, or smirking, an animated jumble of features, textures and colors evokes the crowd. The syncopation of hot reds and cool blues in Lewis’s scene harmonize with the sounds and improvisational riffs of jazz music.


Signed lower right: Norman Lewis '43


Collection of the artist, New York, NY; Estate of Norman Lewis, New York, NY; Tarin Fuller, New York, NY; Bill Hodges Gallery, New York, NY; Collection of Joyce Wein, New York, NY; Estate of Joyce Wein, New York, NY

Credit Line

Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund


© Estate of Norman W. Lewis; Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY