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Luce Foundation Center for American Art

Painting: 20th century: Jitterbugs (II)
Jitterbugs (II)

Jitterbugs (II)
about 1941
William H. Johnson
oil on paperboard
24 x 15 3/8 in. (61.0 x 39.1 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation


William H. Johnson created four paintings of the jitterbug, a dance craze that came out of Harlem and made its way into America's "swing" culture just before the Second World War. Here, the woman dips dramatically into the arms of her partner so that the two figures become one shape of contrasting colors and patterns. Sharp angles and spiraling patterns on the floor and walls emphasize the fast, athletic pace of skilled dance partners.

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