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A focus on the art of ballet at the National Portrait Gallery.

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Friday, 4th February 2011 – David Franchi


“Ballet in Focus” displays photography portraits of major dancers of the beginning of the 20th Century. It is possible to see works of Bassano Ltd. and of E. O. Hoppé and Bert, at the National Portrait Gallery, London, until the next 24th July. Depicting the leading stars of Ballet Russes, this show gives strong ideas of the impact they had in London and in art in general. It is also a recent news the official announcement of the discover of historic video footage featuring an extract from Diaghilev’s celebrated Ballets Russes performance in June 1928 at the annual flower festival at Montreux, Switzerland.

It was previously thought there was no film ever made of the legendary company, as Diaghilev never allowed cameras into theatre. It seems, the film was spotted wrongly labelled in the British Pathé online archive by a dance enthusiast. It was later identified by Jane Pritchard, curator of the recent major exhibition at V&A Museum “Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929” just ended one month ago.

Ballet was a popular entertainment in the past but lost his charm during the late 19th Century. The sudden outbreak of Diaghilev and his Ballet Russes in London in 1911, just one century ago, revitalised the ballet with new ideas and new perspectives. Diaghilev’s enduring influence on 20th-century art, design and fashion is irrefutable, also for the impressive collection of collaborations with the best artists of his time, including Picasso, Matisse, Dali, Goncharova, Man Ray, Bakst, De Chirico, Coco Chanel, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Debussy, Ravel and Satie, just to name a few of them. Though is a relatively small show, certainly could have a better collocation instead of being semi -hidden at the back of Room 31, in the midst of the “Camden Town and Beyond” display. However, “Ballet in Focus” with its 40 black and white photography portrait in two long double-sided cabinets enlightens the importance of this form of art.

The two main photographer of this display are Bassano and E. O. Hoppé. Nearly 30 of the photographs in the display are from the once fashionable photographic studio Bassano Ltd. The National Portrait Gallery holds the surviving archive of the Bassano studio, which comprises over 40,000 whole-plate and half-plate negatives.

Alexander Bassano (10 May 1829 – 21 October 1913) was the leading high society portraitist in Victorian London and celebrated as the photographer of the Royal Family and of leading figures in society, literature and arts. He was the second youngest child of Clemente Bassano an oilman and Italian warehouseman of Jermyn Street, London. Bassano opened his first studio in 1850 in Regent Street then moved many times in London town. In 1977, the company became “Industrial Photographic”, based in South West London. The display also includes a newly acquired portfolio of sepia photogravures published by the Fine Art Society in 1913. “Studies from the Russian Ballet by E. O.

Hoppé and Bert” features classic images of Diaghilev’s stars including Adolph Bolm, Tamara Karsavina and Vaslav Nijinsky. Emil Otto Hoppé (14 April 1878 – 9 December 1972) was a German-born British portrait, travel and topographic photographer active between 1907 and 1945. Born into a wealthy family in Munich, was educated in the finest schools of Munich, Paris and Vienna. He moved to London in 1900 originally to train as a financier. While working for the Deutsche Bank, he was becoming increasingly enamoured with photography. In 1907 he abandoned his financial career and opened a portrait studio. Within a few years E.O. Hoppé was the undisputed leader of pictorial portraiture in Europe. Rarely a photographer has been so famous in his own lifetime among the general public.

He was as famous as his sitters. His reputation drew to him many important personalities in politics, literature, and the arts. In the first decades of the 20th century, Hoppé photographed many leading subjects such as Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, Albert Einstein, Benito Mussolini, Aldous Huxley, George Bernard Shaw, Richard Strauss, Leon Bakst, Anna Pavlova, Tamara Karsavina and other dancers of the Ballets Russes In the early 1920s he was invited to photograph, Queen Mary, King George and members of the Royal family.

In 1994 photographic art curator Graham Howe retrieved Hoppé’s photographic work from the picture library and rejoined it with the Hoppé family archive of photographs and biographical documents, reconstituting for the first time since 1954 the complete E. O. Hoppé Collection. This display in the National Portrait Gallery is a little hidden gem and it worth to pay a visit.

Published for: www.italoeuropeo.com

Direct link: http://www.italoeuropeo.com/entertaiment/arts/a-focus-on-the-art-of-ballet-at-the-national-portrait-gallery/


Written by davidfranchi

February 4, 2011 at 11:08 am

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