Richard Bruce Nugent: Dancing Figures

A dancer and performer himself, Richard Bruce Nugent had a deep affinity for the expressive possibilities of the human body in motion. In this striking image, he depicted dancers and plants as flat, stylized forms rendered in black silhouettes. In the mid-1920s, inspired in part by African art, several artists of the Harlem Renaissance embraced a silhouette aesthetic. As suggested in a verse of Nugent’s poem “Shadow” (1925), the silhouette also had personal significance for the artist, who was African American:

A silhouette am I
On the face of the moon
Lacking color
Or vivid brightness
But defined all the clearer
I am dark
Black on the face of the moon.