Jan 24, 2012

Jitterbugs III (recto)

Jitterbugs III (recto)

c. 1941

Part of a set. See all set records

William Henry Johnson

(American, 1901–1970)

Hand-colored, double-sided screenprint

Support: Paperboard/thin cardboard

Sheet: 40.6 x 27.9 cm (16 x 11 in.); Image: 34.7 x 25.5 cm (13 11/16 x 10 1/16 in.)

The Severance and Greta Millikin Purchase Fund 2012.9.a



African American artist William H. Johnson’s screenprint presents dancers enjoying the jitterbug, a dance craze that came out of Harlem, a predominantly African American neighborhood of Manhattan, just before World War II. The smartly dressed couple dances enthusiastically at one of Harlem’s popular nightclubs—perhaps the famous Savoy Ballroom—while hints of live music appear in the form of two trumpet bells and piano keys. The sharp angles and kinetic stripes of the floor emphasize the dancers’ fast pace. At the time, screenprinting was used as a commercial printing method and rarely for fine art. Johnson’s technique, which he taught at the Harlem Community Art Center, includes the flat tonal areas typical of the medium.

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