Le Tumulte Noir/Dancer in Pink on Piano

Exhibition Label
Paul Colin and Le Tumulte Noir
The jazz age had taken hold in Paris and with it, le tumulte noir, an intense fascination with black culture. African sculpture had inspired such artists as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso; African American ragtime and jazz stimulated avant-garde composers; dancers were captivated by the Cakewalk, the Black Bottom, and the Charleston. Many people perceived in non-Western art forms a "pure" and intuitive creative impulse, in contrast to the overrefined artifice of white European culture. African American expatriates fleeing segregation at home were welcomed.
In 1927 Paul Colin published his portfolio Le Tumulte Noir, featuring forty-five lithographs with pochoir, or stenciled, color, in an edition of 500. Colin's dynamic images were inspired by cubism and art deco modernism. Several lithographs directly evoke Baker's slim form, costumes, and energetic dancing. Others feature jazz bands, prominent white music-hall entertainers depicted as black, or amusing images of the French attempting new dances.
Le Tumulte Noir is not without racist overtones drawn from imagery prominent in American and European popular culture. Nonetheless, it does not just celebrate the "primitive"; its tone is more admiring than condescending.

Object Details

Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
Paul Colin, 27 Jun 1892 - 17 Aug 1985
Josephine Baker, 3 Jun 1906 - 12 Apr 1975
Unidentified Group
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Color lithograph on paper
Image/Sheet: 47.2cm x 31.9cm (18 9/16" x 12 9/16")