Apr 05, 2018 - Sale 2472

Sale 2472 - Lot 24

Price Realized: $ 112,500
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 30,000 - $ 40,000
WILLIAM H. JOHNSON (1901 -1970)
Jitterbugs II.

Color screenprint and pochoir on paper board, circa 1941. 432x356 mm; 17x14 inches.

Provenance: Annie Davis, New York and Savannah, GA; gifted to a private collection, Savannah, GA. Titled in pencil, lower right recto, and with a Harmon Foundation label sticker, center verso, with the inventory number "FO-304 (II)" in blue ink.

Jitterbugs II is a scarce and excellent example of an important American print and an iconic image of the Harlem Renaissance. While living in New York in the early 1940s, William H. Johnson printed his screenprints, depicting colorful images of both the rural South and of Harlem. His Jitterbugs series is based on his paintings of the popular dance in Harlem music halls - Johnson's same titled gouache, circa 1941, is in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Jitterbugs I-V are a series of five images, and a significant part of the only 17 known screenprint images Johnson made. He worked with screenprinting for only three years until tragedy struck in 1943--his Danish wife, Holcha, was diagnosed with breast cancer and died months later.

This is the first time this print has come to auction. We have located ten other impressions of Jitterbugs II in public collections - three in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and other impressions in the Art Institute of Chicago, the Amon Carter Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Library of Congress, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art (identified as Jitterbugs V) and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. These are experimental and painterly prints, using both screens and pochoir (hand-colored stencils.) Each impression is proof like, and has a slightly different registration. There is a printed advertisement for a football game on the verso; the proof in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art has the same.