Norman Lewis, Harlem Jazz Jamboree, 1943

An abstract painting of a gathering of people playing instruments and listening to music

Oil on canvas. Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund. © Estate of Norman W. Lewis; Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY.

Fully immersed in jazz’s creative community, Norman Lewis bridged music and visual art in his work. In Harlem Jazz Jamboree, he brings a New York City nightclub to life by depicting its abstract and physical elements alike: instruments, expressive facial features, and vibrant reds and blues that imitate club lighting. By painting both Black and white figures, Lewis reflects the realities of jazz culture and makes a clear distinction in roles: Black musicians, at the center of the composition, drive the creative process, while the white audience, dotting the sides of the canvas, observes.