We have all heard the old advice that pregnant women should let their unborn babies tune into the sounds of classical music in order to make them smarter when they grow up. Whether or not this works, it hasn’t stopped mums all around the world giving it a try, however you may not know that apparently listening to jazz could make you a better painter. This idea comes from the fact that some of the most divergent and innovative painters of the 20th century were big fans of the musical movement, and they all listened while they worked.
It is known that Picasso enjoyed listening to jazz both while painting and outside of the studio. Many people often associate bold block colours with jazz as the posters and graphic design of the movement often included these stylistic geometric shapes. Picasso of course is well known for abstract paintings of both distorted forms and pioneering cubism. Its not unlikely then to assume that Picasso’s style and sensibilities had a bit of a back and forth with jazz music. Picasso moved away from natural colours and painted vivid blocks that intermesh into a mix of chaotic overlapping shapes which can easily be interpreted as a kind of jazz style. His freedom on the canvas, breaking of convention and even the many instruments he laced into his paintings in wild wonderful styles can all be seen as emanating from his love of jazz.
Often associated with hip-hop thanks to his graffiti-like style and influence on the scene, half Haitian, half Puerto-Rican Basquiat was often focused on the blight of African Americans in his work. However as jazz was a product of his people and was still prevalent during his working years, this would often be the music he listened to while working tirelessly. Often depicting dark skinned figures in dynamic poses and repeating words over and over in scrawls that he then scrubbed out, Basquiat’s approach to painting was as improvised as the music he listened to. It’s easy to see how his maddening and energetic scribbling style could be easily produced by listening to the lively and unpredictable sounds of jazz music.
Known for splitting the art world in two due to his style of splattering paint all over canvases, Pollack was one of several artists in New York during the 1950’s who were purposefully breaking away from the mainstream. These modernist expressionists as they would come to be known took new and exciting approaches to art, Pollack stood over his canvas and would pour and flick paint all around him leaving a cacophony of indiscernible streaks behind. Many art lovers have come to see Pollock’s work as almost a photograph of the kinetic movements he made while creating them. Those who saw him creating in the studio often referred to what he did as a ‘dance’, and the music he listened to while dancing – jazz. Pollack was a big fan, having his artwork as the cover for albums, and undoubtedly the controlled madness that happens in jazz music is secured in the frantic paintworks he left behind.