Feb 19, 2008 - Sale 2136

Sale 2136 - Lot 8

Price Realized: $ 90,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 35,000 - $ 50,000
AARON DOUGLAS (1899 - 1979)
Emperor Jones.

Gouache on illustration board, 1926. 355x253 mm; 14x10 inches. Signed and titled in pencil, lower margin.

Provenance: ex-collection the artist; Dartington Hall Trust, High Cross House, Exeter, U.K., with the Trust label from the frame back; by sale to the current owner.

High Cross House, Dartington Hall is the 1932 modernist home of Leonard Elmhurst and his American wife Dorothy Straight. According to the Trust's Archives, after World War I, the Englishman Elmhurst met Dorothy Whitney Straight in New York in 1921. She came from a very wealthy American family and inherited a fortune. She was an avid supporter and patron of the theatre arts, and frequent visitor to New York.

Submitted to the Theatre Arts division of the Annual Exhibition, Architectural League of New York, with the typed exhibitor label affixed to the board verso, and a printed number label affixed lower left recto.

This remarkable and iconic gouache from the 1926 series Emperor Jones is one of the few known studies for the woodcut series. We could find only one other gouache for this series - in the Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, New Orleans. The elegant drawing epitomizes the aesthetics of the Harlem Renaissance, and displays the panache for design and draughtmanship that gave Douglas his fame. He was commissioned by Theatre Arts Monthly to design a series of woodblock illustrations for the Eugene O'Neill play the same year his illustrations appeared in The Crisis, Langston Hughes's first volume of poetry and W. E. B. Du Bois production poster the Krigwa Players Little Negro Theatre of Harlem.