Second Career

The Unknown Art of Miles Davis

Jazz great Miles Davis took up drawing and painting in the last decade of his life and proved that genius recognizes no boundaries.

David Redfern/Getty

Courtesy Insight Editions

Miles Davis did not begin to draw and paint until he was in his 50s, but he brought the same fierce concentration and determination to his visual art that he had used to constantly re-invent himself as a musician for nearly 40 years. A restless soul, he is reported to have worked for hours a day on his drawing and painting. The results are mixed, and that’s not just a polite way of saying that Miles wasn’t a good artist. Of musicians who also attempt visual art, he was at the head of the class, in front of Dylan, Ron Wood, and Tony Bennett, and just behind Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart). Was he great? Maybe not, but he was very good, particularly as an abstract painter. He had a fluid, muscular style, understood color and balance, and possessed a crash-and-burn fearlessness in his compositions. Would you look twice if these works weren’t by Miles? Yes, you would. So put on some Miles music and settle in for a gallery tour.

Images selected from the gorgeously produced Miles Davis: The Collected Artwork by Scott Gutterman with a foreword by Quincy Jones, published by Insight Editions.

Courtesy Insight Editions

 

Courtesy Insight Editions

 

Courtesy Insight Editions

Courtesy Insight Editions

Courtesy Insight Editions

Courtesy Insight Editions

Courtesy Insight Editions

Courtesy Insight Editions

 

Courtesy Insight Editions

 

Courtesy Insight Editions

 

Courtesy Insight Editions