The Jazz Age in Paris, 1914-1941
America gave birth to jazz, but Paris was the first to hail it as an art. War-weary and hungry for diversion, Parisians in the 1920s and 1930s embraced this exotic musical form. Musicians, expatriate authors, avant-garde artists, flappers, and socialites converged on the clubs and cabarets where jazz reigned. As jazz evolved, it became linked with modern movements in the arts and acclaimed as the sound of the 20th century.
Paris welcomed the United States infantry bands that played throughout Europe during World War I. To many African Americans, already inspired by the Harlem Renaissance, France offered freedom from the racial prejudice in the United States. Major talents and personalities gravitated toward Paris: Josephine Baker, “Bricktop,” Cole Porter, Sidney Bechet, Coleman Hawkins, and Benny Carter. Music and ideas mingled in the legendary Parisian clubs of the day.
Originally developed with the American Library Association (ALA), Jazz Age in Paris, 1914-1941 traveled to 28 libraries across the country in a tour made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities. SITES offered a small-format version of the original exhibition to museums and other institutions, bringing the verve and excitement of the topic to a greatly expanded audience.
With graphics and backgrounds evocative of the period, the exhibition presented nearly 100 images, including portrait and candid photographs, posters, performance programs, and other printed memorabilia. The visual story was complemented by introductory text and wide-ranging quotations from Jazz Age musicians, writers, and entertainers. A 30-minute video accompanied the exhibition.
Jazz Age in Paris, 1914-1940 was made possible through the generous support of Nissan North America and is a presentation of America's Jazz Heritage, a Partnership of the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund and the Smithsonian Institution.
This Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service exhibition toured from 2001-2003.