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Estimate: $ 35,000 - $ 50,000
WILLIAM H. JOHNSON (1901 -1970) Jitterbugs II.
Color screenprint and pochoir on wove paper, circa 1941-42. 381x292 mm; 15x11 1/2 inches (trimmed inside the image).
Provenance: private collection, Long Island, New York; thence by descent, private collection, Washington DC. Inscribed "Jitterbugs II, William H. Johnson" and the Harmon Foundation inventory number "FO-304 (10)" in ink on a sticker, verso.
Jitterbugs II is a very scarce 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 Harlem. His Jitterbugs series are based on his paintings of the popular dance in Harlem music halls - both Johnson's same titled oil on paperboard and watercolor, both circa 1941, are in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Jitterbugs I-V is 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 only the second time this scarce 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, with 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.