This new art book chronicles the original paintings of Miles Davis

Earlier this year, fans of Miles Davis were blessed with the posthumous release of a lost album Rubberband. The album’s cover, featuring an original painting by Davis himself, may have turned fans on to another facet of his incredible artistic evolution.

Now an art book titled Miles Davis: The Collected Archives seeks to shine a light on this often unappreciated side of the blues legend.

miles davis art
All images: Miles Davis: The Collected Archives

The art created by Miles Davis in the last ten years of his life depicts Kandinsky, Basquiat, Picasso, and Joni Mitchell as significant influences.

Tara McGinley of Dangerous Minds wrote that Davis “made creating art as much a part of his life as making music…. He was said to have worked obsessively each day on art when he wasn’t touring and he studied regularly with New York painter Jo Gelbard.” 

Davis churned out an enormous number of works, which combined inspiration from the greats with his own unique style. However, despite it being amazing work, he didn’t exhibit much in his lifetime, showing that more than anything, visual art was a personal experience for Davis. 

“It’s like therapy for me,” he said, “and keeps my mind occupied with something positive when I’m not playing music.” 

Davis saught lessons from New York painter Jo Gelbard, who then later became his girlfriend, collaborating with him on work such as the cover of the 1989 album Amandla. Speaking about his style, Gelbard said: 

“The way Miles painted was not the way he played or the way he sketched. He was so minimal and light-handed in his sound, in his walk. His body was very light; he was a slight man, a delicate kind of guy. His sketches are light and airy and minimal, but when he took his brush and paint, he was deadly – he was like a child with paints in kindergarten.”

“He would pour it on and mix it until it got too muddy and over-paint. He just loved the texture and the feel. It got all over his clothes and his hands and his hair and it was just fun for him…”

Miles sums up his own attitude toward his artwork in one brief statement: “It ain’t that serious.”

Grab your copy of Miles Davis: The Collected Archives here.