24 August 2011

Lady Hawarden

Clementina Maude, Viscountess Hawarden, née Fleeming (1 June 1822 – 19 January 1865), commonly known as Lady Clementina Hawarden, was a noted portrait photographer of the 1860s. A daughter of Admiral Charles Elphinstone Fleeming, she married Cornwallis Maude, 4th Viscount Hawarden in 1845; the couple had ten children. She turned to photography in late 1857 or early 1858, whilst living on the estate of her husband's family in Dundrum, Co. Tipperary, Ireland. A move to London in 1859 allowed her to set up a studio in her elegant home in South Kensington. There she took many of the characteristic portraits for which she is principally remembered, many of which include her children.

The Viscountess Hawarden first exhibited in the annual exhibition of the Photographic Society of London in January 1863 and was elected a member of the Society the following March. Her work was widely acclaimed for its "artistic excellence", winning her the medal for composition at the exhibition.

source: Wikipedia

23 August 2011


Autochromes from the 1910s.

by Jules Gervais Courtellemont

by Mervyn O'Gorman - his daughter Christina

22 August 2011

Ruth St. Denis

Ruth St. Denis (January 20, 1879 – July 21, 1968) was an early modern dance pioneer. She was born in 1879 on a New Jersey farm. The daughter of a strong-willed and highly educated woman ( Ruth Emma Dennis was a physician by training), St. Denis was encouraged to study dance from an early age. Her early training included Delsarte technique, ballet lessons with the Italian ballerina Maria Bonfante, social dance forms and skirt dancing.

by Adolph de Meyer 1913

Ruth began her professional career in New York City in 1892, where she worked as a skirt dancer in a dime museum and in vaudeville houses. Dime museums featured "leg dancers" (female dancers whose legs were visible under their short skirts) in brief dance routines. St. Denis was probably required to perform her routine as many as eleven times a day.

In 1898, the young vaudeville dancer was noticed by David Belasco, a well-known and highly successful Broadway producer and director. He hired her to perform with his large company as a featured dancer, and was also responsible for giving her the stage name "St. Denis." Under Belasco's influence, Ruthie Dennis became Ruth St. Denis, toured with his production of "Zaza" around the United States and in Europe, and was exposed to the work of several important European artists, including the Japanese dancer Sado Yacco and the great English actress, Sarah Bernhardt.

St. Denis' artistic imagination was ignited by these artists. She became very interested in the dance/drama of Eastern cultures, including those of Japan, India and Egypt. She was also influenced by Bernhardt's melodramatic acting style, in which the tragic fate of her characters took center stage. After 1900, St. Denis began formulating her own theory of dance/drama based on the dance and drama techniques of her early training, her readings into philosophy, scientology and the history of ancient cultures, and the work of artists like Yacco and Bernhardt.

In 1904, during one of her tours with Belasco, she saw a poster of the goddess Isis in an ad for Egyption for Egyption Deities cigarettes. The image of the goddess sparked her imagination and she began reading about Egypt, and then India.

By 1905, St. Denis left Belasco's company to begin a career as a solo artist. She had designed an elaborate and exotic costume and a series of steps telling the story of a mortal maid who was loved by the god Krishna. Entitled "Radha" this solo dance (with three extras) was first performed in Proctor's Vaudeville House in New York City. "Radha" was an attempt to translate St. Denis' understanding of Indian culture and mythology to the American dance stage. As a solo artist, St. Denis was quickly discovered by a society woman, Mrs. Orlando Rouland. With the aid of her wealthy patron, she began performing "Radha" at private matinees in respectable Broadway theatres.

Like Loie Fuller and Isadora Duncan before her, St. Denis felt that Europe might have more to offer her. She left with her mother for London in 1906, and traveled the continent performing her "translations" until 1909, when she returned to give a series of well-received concerts in New York City and on tour in the United States. During the next five years she continued to tour, building her reputation as an exotic dancer with an artistic bent, a "classic dancer" in the same category as Isadora Duncan.

After 1911, the vogue for solo dancers on the professional stage died down. To support herself, St. Denis often gave private lessons to society women, including Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. In 1912, St. Denis' major patron, Henry Harris, died on the Titanic. In serious financial trouble, St. Denis went back to the studio and came up with a new exotic dance, this time on a Japanese theme. "O-Mika" was more culturally authentic than her other 'translations' but it was not a success.

Around 1913, St. Denis began adding other performers to her touring productions. In 1914 she hired Ted Shawn, a stage dancer with strong Delsartean leanings, and his partner, Hilda Beyer, to perform ballroom numbers. St. Denis continued to perform her solo "translations" while Shawn brought a range of popular dance forms, from ragtime to tangos, into the act. Soon after, St. Denis and Shawn became dance partners and lovers, and St. Denis' career as a solo artist was over.

with Ted Shawn

Ruth St. Denis was the first American dancer to incorporate the traditions and practices of the vaudeville stage into the world of serious concert dance. Her solo "translations" were unique combinations of dramatic mise en scene and contemporary dance steps that successfully combined theatrical and concert dance traditions.

St.Denis with Shawn by Nickolas Muray 1923

One of her more famous pupils was Martha Graham, who attended Ms. St. Denis' school of dance, Denishawn, that she had started with her husband, Ted Shawn. Doris Humphrey, Evan Burrows Fontaine and Charles Weidman also studied at Denis Shawn, and Graham, Humphrey, Weidman and the future silent film star Louise Brooks all performed as dancers with the Denishawn company. Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn were also instrumental in creating the legendary dance festival, Jacob's Pillow.

(Source: http://www.pitt.edu/~gillis/dance/ruth.html)

Ruth St Denis is seen here performing the Indian Noche (1932) one of her most famous pieces.

19 August 2011

Isadora Duncan

Angela Isadora Duncan was born in 1877 in San Francisco, California. As a child she studied ballet, Delsarte technique and burlesque forms like skirt dancing. She began her professional career in Chicago in 1896, where she met the theatrical producer Augustin Daly. Soon after, Duncan joined his his touring company, appearing in roles ranging from one of the fairies in a "Mid-summer Night's Dream" to one of the quartet girls in "The Giesha." Duncan traveled to England with the Daly company in 1897. During this time she also danced as a solo performer at a number of society functions in and around London.

Returning to New York City in 1898, Duncan left the Daly company and began performing her solo dances at the homes of wealthy patrons. Calling their program "The Dance and Philosophy," Isadora and her older sister Elizabeth offered society women an afternoon of dance pieces set to Strauss waltzes and Omar Khayyam's "The Rubbaiyat." Influenced by the Americanized Delsarte movement, these "afternoons" received little serious notice from the press. Duncan became discouraged by the lack of enthusiasm, and, with her mother and siblings, set sail for London in 1899.

In the years between 1899 and 1907, Duncan lived and worked in the great cities of Europe. In London in 1900 she met a group of artists and critics - led by the painter Charles Halle and the music critic John Fuller-Maitland - who introduced her to Greek statue art, Italian Renaissance paintings and symphonic music. During this perioed, Fuller-Maitland convinced her to stop dancing to recitations and to begin using the music of Chopin and Beethoven for her inspiration.

In Germany, Duncan was introduced to the philosopy of Frederick Nietzsche, and soon after began formulating her own philosophy of dance. In 1903 she delivered a speech in Berlin called "The Dance of the Future." In it she argued that the dance of the future would be similar to the dance of the ancient Greeks, natural and free. Duncan accused the ballet of "deforming the beautiful woman's body" and called for its abolition. She ended her speech by stating that "the dance of the future will have to become again a high religious art as it was with the Greeks. For art which is not religious is not art, is mere merchandise." It was during this period that Duncan began clarifying her theory of natural dance, identifying the source of the body's natural movement in the solar plexus.

Between 1904 and 1907, Duncan lived and worked in Greece, Germany, Russia and Scandanavia. During this period she worked with many famous artists, including the scenic designer Gordon Craig and the Russian theatre director Constantin Stanislavsky. In 1904, Duncan established her first school of dance in Grunewald, a suburb outside of Berlin. There, she began to develop her theories of dance education and to assemble her famous dance group, later known as the Isadorables.

Duncan returned to the United States in 1908 to begin a series of tours throughout the country. At first, her performances were poorly received by music critics, who felt that the dancer had no right to "interpret" symphonic music. But the audiences grew more and more enthusiastic, and when Duncan returned to Europe in 1909, she was famous throughout the world. In the following years, Duncan created and maintained schools in France, Germany and Russia. She continued to sponsor young dancers and to give her solo performances. She returned to the United States several times, touring the country, but she never lived there again. In 1927, Duncan was killed in an automobile accident in Paris.

Isadora Duncan was the first American dancer to : 

- develop and label a concept of natural breathing, which she identified with the ebb and flow of ocean waves;
- define movement based on natural and spiritual laws rather than on formal considerations of geometric space;
- rigorously compare dance to the other arts, defending it as a primary art form worthy of "high art" status;
- develop a philosophy of the dance;
- deemphasize scenery and costumes in favor of a simple stage setting and simple costumes. By doing this, Duncan suggested that watching a dancer dance was enough.

Source: http://www.pitt.edu/~gillis/dance/isadora.html
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