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It’s About Time For Felrath Hines, Painter And Lover Of Jazz

Rachel Berenson Perry’s new book illuminates Hines’ struggles and ultimate aesthetic success as a 20th-century African-American artist.

Felrath Hines, an African-American painter and conservator born in 1913, was also, like so many other visual artists of his times, a jazz fan. Hines grew up in Indianapolis’ famed Indiana Avenue neighborhood (where Wes Montgomery, Freddie Hubbard, David Baker and J.J. Johnson all got their starts, among others), attended the Art Institute of Chicago, and spent much of his professional life in New York City and Washington D.C. His works will be the subject of a summer 2019 exhibition at the Indiana State Museum.

I recently spoke about Hines with fine arts curator and historian Rachel Berenson Perry, author of the new book The Life And Art Of Felrath Hines: From Dark To Light. Our conversation, which originally aired on my weekday afternoon WFIU jazz program Just You And Me, includes music pertinent to Hines’ tastes and career, including artists such as Leroy Carr, Earl Hines, Joe Williams, Billy Strayhorn with Duke Ellington’s orchestra, Thelonious Monk, the Modern Jazz Quartet, and Miles Davis.

Felrath Hines expert Floyd Coleman on the inspiration Hines drew from Miles Davis:

Fel was constantly pushing the envelope. (These) paintings are indicative of the kind of exploration, improvisation, and mystery that he makes work… He loved Miles Davis’ music because Miles was so unpredictable. Fel tried to achieve the mystery related to unpredictability (in his painting).

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