One of France’s most famous poster artists, Paul Colin vaulted into fame with his 1925 poster for the Revue Nègre, which helped to launch the career of Josephine Baker. Throughout the ’20s, Colin threw himself into the black jazz scene of Paris in the 1920s, culminating in Le Tumulte Noir, a portfolio of Art Deco pieces commemorating the era in Paris’s jazz basements. Several of these pieces on auction are original artworks created around the time of Le Tumulte Noir, while others are from his more minimal Modernism of the post- World War II era.
Louche, cocky, and unmistakably sexy, this jazz pianist is fingering the keys and looking you straight in the eye. An original work of art by Paul Colin, it was created in the same mode as his Le Tumulte Noir, his famed portfolio of the Parisian black jazz scene during the late 1920s. This was in the years immediately following his breakout poster for Josephine Baker at the Bal Nègre, when he spent much time in the Parisian jazz circle.
Virtually synaesthetic, Colin’s homage to jazz is a perfect translation of music into the visual realm, reminiscent of Kenneth Fearing’s poem “American Rhapsody (4)”: “And the piano builds a roof of notes above the world. / And the trumpet weaves a dome of music through space. / And the drum makes a ceiling over space and time and night.” In its arrangement of forms, it’s also clearly referencing both Kandinsky and Salvador Dalí. Certificates of authenticity from Jack Rennert & Alain Weill are included.
Oh yeah. That’s Josephine Baker dancing on top of a piano while the musicians cluster below, and the Eiffel Tower itself swings in syncopation. Classic Paul Colin, it’s also got a little bit of Chagall in it, n’est ce pas? An absolute treasure of the Jazz Age.
Katherine Dunham, of Chicago born, has been called “the matriarch and queen mother of black dance.” A student at the University of Chicago, she took a leave of absence to study Caribbean dance and ethnography – a performance path she’d follow for the rest of her life. 1947 was a huge year for her. She began it by choreographing the musical play Windy City, which debuted in her hometown; then she opened a cabaret show in the brand-new tourist destination of Las Vegas, and followed that up with tours in Mexico and Europe, “where she was an immediate sensation.” Colin’s poster, a spiritual successor to his world famous Revue Nègre and Bal Nègre for Josephine Baker, captures the Windy City jazz opening in Paris: all fishnets and flappers and zoot suits and gangster hats – with a little bit of the voodoo that they both do so well.
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