Exhibitions: Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties

Aaron Douglas: Congo

A passionate advocate of jazz as a new mode of African American expression based in deep emotions and black cultural traditions, Aaron Douglas pictured a scene of rhythm-induced abandon in Congo, an illustration for the novel Black Magic, in which the French writer Paul Morand exploited the primitivist vogue for its sensationalism. Here, Congo, an African American performer modeled on the uninhibited Josephine Baker, joins an ecstatic drumming and dance ritual in a Parisian bar. She foresees her own death in a vision of the Mississippi and her Creole grandmother, spotlit here in the electric beam of her gaze.