Finding the Ballets Russes in NYC – Part Two.

At the New York Historical Society you can now see, on permanent display, what is surely the biggest Picasso in NYC!

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The canvas was once the front cloth for Le Tricorne, from 1919, designed by Picasso, and shows a traditional corrida scene.

In 1928 Diaghilev cut the middle section cut out of the cloth and sold it to raise funds. It was bought by a private collector. In 1957 it was acquired by Phyllis Lambert, architectural historian and daughter of Canadian business magnate Samuel Bronfman, CEO of Seagram Liquor Empire. The cloth was displayed in the Four Seasons Restaurant in Seagram Building from 1959 – 2014.

In 2015 the cloth was moved to the New York Historical Society. According to the New York Times the move ‘was the end of a tortured ordeal over the fate of the work, which had resided at the Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagram Building only to be pushed out in a dispute between the landlord and the New York Landmarks Conservancy.’

Here is a great video showing the installation of the cloth.

Also on display at the New York Historical Society are 11 facsimile costume designs and a video of the 1994 Paris Opera version of Le Tricorne.

The costumes and sets for Le Tricorne were made in London in 1919.  A studio in Floral St was hired by Ballets Russes set painters Vladimir and Elizabeth Violet Polunin. It was here that the sets for Le Tricorne were painted.

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Diaghilev, Polunin and Picasso in the studio in Floral St.
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Picasso and Olga  Khokhlova
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The commemorative plaque on the studio building in Floral St.

Next time you are in NYC go and see this beautiful piece of Ballets Russes History.

New York Historical Society

 

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Finding the Ballets Russes in NYC – Part One.

Whenever I go, intentionally or not, I seem to find something to do with Diaghilev and The Ballets Russes.

For the last week I have been in New York and on Monday I visited the Met Museum – one of my favourite museums. Quite by accident I came across a  display of designs by Léon Bakst.

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The small exhibition, in the Drawing and Prints room on the second floor (690), contains 15 designs and paintings by Bakst as well as some items of ephemera. According to the didactic panel the Met’s holdings of Russian art were significantly enhanced in 2015 through the bequest of Sallie Blumenthal.

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Unfortunately there are some pretty bad mistakes in the information panels including a statement that the Ballets Russes was founded in 1905.

The designs include a number of Ballets Russes related items:

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  • A design for Iksender from La Peri – Bakst designed this ballet in 1911/12 but it was never created. The design at the Met is dated 1922 and would appear to be a copy created by Bakst.
  • Two designs from Scheherazade.  One is a costumes design for the Sultan Samarkand dated 1922 – this, like La Peri, would appear to be a copy created by Bakst . The second design is for a Eunuch from 1910.
  • Two designs from Daphnis and Chloe. One is a design for a woman from the village and the second is for a Brigand Boy – both dated 1912.
  • The costume design for a female courtier from The Sleeping Princess, 1921. I believe this design might actually be from Anna Pavlova’s version of The Sleeping Beauty created in 1916. Bakst did reuse some of his designs for the Ballets Russes 1921 version.
  • The design for the day bed for Cleopatra, dated 1909.
  • Set design for The Good Humoured Ladies, 1917.
  • Set design for Daphnis and Chloe, 1912.
  • Set design for Narcisse, 1911.
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A case of ephemera relating to the Ballets Russes 1916 & 17 USA tours.

Irving Penn

The Met currently also has a wonderful exhibition of Irving Penn’s (b.1917 – d.2009) work. Although Penn worked after Diaghilev’s death a number of his portraits featured associates from the company. This included: Picasso, Jean Cocteau and Stravinsky – as well as a wonderful portrait of The Ballet Club featuring Balanchine.

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Copyright Met Museum

In search of Pavlova…

Over the last 12 days I have been exploring Scotland by train (and ferry and occasionally bus and even taxi!) – it was brilliant adventure. When I was in Glasgow I went to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. It was here that I was able to see this wonderful painting of Anna Pavlova in The Bacchanale by Sir John Lavery.

Lavery, b.1856 – d.1941, was born in Belfast. He was sent to Scotland in 1866 and would go on to establish his career in Glasgow.

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I found Pavlova in Glasgow!

Lavery moved to London in 1896 and soon became a sought-after portraitist. He painted Anna Pavlova several times across 1910 and 1911.

Lavery was commissioned by The London Illustrated News, in 1910, to paint a head and shoulder sketch of Pavlova. The image appeared in the paper on the 22nd of April, 1911, p. 17 – ‘Anna Pavlova – The great Russian dance, by John Lavery – Specially painted from life for The London Illustrated News.’ Pavlova posed regularly for him during her stay in London in 1910 and Lavery painted two full-length portraits of Pavlova in The Bacchanale, one of which is as Kelvingrove.

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The painting of Pavlova at Kelvingrove – it captures a wonderful sense of movement!
Sir John Lavery [Irish painter, 1856-1941]
Lavery’s second portrait of Pavlova.
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Lavery’s head and shoulder portrait of Pavlova , commissioned by The Illustrated London News.

On Pavlova’s return to London in 1911 she posed again – this time Pavlova’s famed solo The Dying Swan formed the focus. Interestingly the painting was completed using Lavery’s wife Hazel as the model. The Tate cites that ‘although there were clear differences between the two women, Lavery believed that, in stage makeup, Hazel could easily pass for the dancer.’ http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/lavery-le-mort-du-cygne-anna-pavlova-n03000

Le Mort du Cygne: Anna Pavlova 1911 by Sir John Lavery 1856-1941
The painting of Pavlova at The Tate.
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Hazel Lavery – you can see some similarities to Anna Pavlova.
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Anna Pavlova dressed in her swan costume by the pond at Ivy House. Museum of London.

Whilst this portrait is beautiful it is certainly does not emulate Pavlova and her dancing as well as The Bacchanale at Kelvingrove. The Tate mistakenly cites this portrait as showing Pavlova in the ballet Swan Lake and not the divertissement Le Mort du Cygne aka The Dying Swan. The Tate wrongly suggests that the lake in the background is the ‘swan lake’ and that Pavlova’s pose is not from the ballet. The scene to me looks like it may be by the pond at Ivy House (Keith Money supports this) – Pavlova often posed in her swan costume by this pond. The pose is reflective of the final moments of The Dying Swan. 

A second portrait is held at the V&A. Another study of Pavlova in The Dying Swan was sold for £158,500, at Christie’s in 2014.

http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/paintings/sir-john-lavery-ra-rsa-rha-5812084-details.aspx

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Portrait at the V&A.
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Portrait sold at Christie’s in 2014.

A swan song …

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The Swan  – Anna Pavlova

Anna Pavlova, b. 1881 – d. 1931 was most famous for her performance of the divertissement The Swan or The Dying Swan. The elaborate feathered tutu she wore has  always fascinated me – How was it made? Does it survive?

Several years ago I began working as a volunteer at the Museum of London which houses, amongst its vast collection, Pavlova’s Dying Swan tutu. Finally I was able to see this wonderful creation up close.

I have now traced three Dying Swan costumes in collections around the world – they are all thought to have been worn by Pavlova.

Pavlova’s costume-maker Madame Manya stated that “she [Pavlova] never wore more her Swan costume more than twice without the skirts of the tutu being renewed”. This was most likely because tarlatan and tulle were much softer and required constant stiffening.

Could this be why three costumes still exist?

1. Museum of London

This costume was given to The Museum of London in 1931, shortly after Pavlova’s death, by her manager Victor Dandré. It is a beautiful costume decorated with white and cream goose feathers. This costume is most likely the last that Pavlova wore.

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The tutu is beautifully made and has a green stone set in the centre. The layered skirts are covered in small sequins.

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Queen Elizabeth views The Dying Swan costume at the Pavlova Commemorative Exhibition – November 1956.

2. Bancroft Library, San Francisco

A second Dying Swan costume forms part of a large collection of historic dance costumes and ephemera, collected by Joseph Rous Paget-Fredericks b. 1903 – d.1963, and is now held at The Bancroft Library.

This gorgeous costume was on display last year at The Denver Art Museum where it formed part of the exhibition: Rhythm & Roots, Dance in American Art. This costume is very similar to that held at the MOL but has blue stones in the headdress and on the bodice.

The Paget-Fredericks Dance Collection contains roughly 2,000 original drawings, paintings, photographs and pieces of memorabilia, the majority of which date from ca. 1913 to ca. 1945.

The Pavlova costumes are on long-term loan to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco from the Joseph Rous Paget-Fredericks Dance Collection, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. Here is the link to the finding aid:

http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/tf9s2011vc/admin/#bioghist-1.3.4

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Joseph Rous Paget-Fredericks b. 1903 – d.1963 was an American artist, designer, dancer and illustrator.

His mother, Constance, was a hostess to many great dancers visiting California and a keen collector. ‘She collected theater and dance memorabilia and art and the family home was said to contain numerous souvenirs of Loie Fuller, Isadora Duncan, Ruth St. Denis, Vaslav Nijinsky and Anna Pavlova (including many of her beautiful costumes for such ballets as “Swan,” “Giselle,” “Rondino,” and “Gavotte”).’

‘The San Francisco Chronicle indicated that Paget-Fredericks was to dance with Pavlova in Berlin in the winter of 1922, and would study with Bakst in Paris following that engagement (April 23, 1922, p. D4. “Dance concert to be novel event.”)
 
Paget-Fredericks attended Berkeley High School and, irregularly, the University of California. His autobiographical notes indicate he attended various schools and universities in Europe and that he studied art with Leon Bakst and John Singer Sargent.
 
Pavlova and Bakst were said to have sponsored his first show in Paris. In 1930, Paget-Fredericks records, he was invited to serve as Art Director for Pavlova’s world tours.’
 Information from :
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Joseph Rous Paget-Fredericks illustaation of Pavlova in The Swan.

3. Bibliothèque-musée de l’Opéra, Paris

A third costume is held at the Bibliothèque-musée de l’Opéra in Paris. The costume the library holds is believed to have been designed by Léon Bakst in 1907 for Pavlova.

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Although very similar to the other two costumes the way the wings are set on this costume is quite different. The shoulders also appear to be decorated with a marabou style trim rather then individual feathers. I have not yet been able to trace the provenance of this costume.

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You can see this costume on display now at Bibliothèque-musée de l’Opéra until the 5th of March 2017. The costume forms part of the exhibition Bakst: des Ballets russes à la haute couture. http://www.bnf.fr/documents/cp_bakst.pdf

A new swan …

Last year I was asked to source a replica of The Dying Swan costume for a jewellery launch at Kensington Palace Orangery. The costume I sourced was made for the production of A Portrait of Pavlova which was first performed in April 1989 by Ballet Creations. The company was founded by Richard Slaughter and Ursula Hageli with the aim to inspire audiences. The couple undertook extensive research to recreate some of her most famous, unique and well loved dances with input from former members of Pavlova’s own ballet company. The pair also recreated her costumes in astonishing detail.

The Dying swan costume had been beautifully made but had been stored in an attic for many years. I restored the costume, replacing many of the feathers on the bodice and steaming out ones on the wings. I was very happy with the result – I hope Pavlova would have been too!

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The replica of Anna Pavlova’s Dying Swan tutu on display in December 2016.

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