Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Isadora Duncan: a taste for life

Isadora Duncan:

"passionate, electric and with a voracious appetite for art and life".

Mysteriously there’s only one picture of this wonderful sculpture/statue to be found in the Internet. It's in a private collection (in the Romanelli’s ?). And was I lucky to stumble over it ! It is by Italian sculptor Romano Romanelli (1882-1969): “the awakening of Brunhilde” and was created in 1913. From Richard Wagners (1813-1883) Opera Siegfried Act III, Scene 3. The third of four operas from his “Ring des Nibelungen”. Isadora was invited by Cosima Wagner (1837-1930, Richards widow and daughter of Franz Liszt (1811-1886) herself  in the Bayreuth Festspiele to dance on her late husbands music.

But secretly it’s also Isadora Duncan (1877-1927) the legendary dancer who revolutionised and set free modern dance and ballet as well as her own ambiguous lifestyle at the beginning if the 20th century. Above photographed 7 years later in 1920 by American-German photographer Arnold Genthe (1869-1942).

Dancing barefoot in a classic Grecian outfit called a peplos (πέπλος) on classical music she inspired the whole of Europe. And many great artist.

Sculptor August Rodin (1840-1919), nicknamed the Sultan of Meudon because of the numerous nude models and muses sprawling over his house and studio every day in later life, had his hands actually all over her, painted/sketched her (above) but it never resulted in a sculpture. Rodin and Romanelli knew each other very well. Most great creative souls have a muse . Rodin's "Eve" below:

Would Picasso, perhaps the greatest and most creative of them all, from memory be hinting at bearded Rodin in his 1934 series of etchings "Sculpteur and Model" ?  

Isadora begged her lover Romano for a child after loosing her two small children by drowning in river Seine in a dramatic car accident that year. She actually bore him a son in 1914 but the little boy died soon after birth. 

The love affair ended, Romanelli married some-one else and so eventually did Duncan. Read this informative condensed biography on Isadora’s tumultuous life:

It was the time of the great French sculptors August Rodin (above), Pierre-August Renoir (1841-1919) and Aristide Maillol (1861-1944). Roman Romanelli, from a long line of sculptors, was taught by his father Rafaello who had been a student of famous sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini (1777-1850). 

The Romanelli family to this day runs an important museum and studio in  Florence (above).

Isadora before had multiple relationships and had children with British Edward Gordon-Craig (1872-1966) a modernist, stage designer and printmaker and friend of William Nicholson (1872-1949) and with heir to the Singer sewing-machine company Paris Singer (1867-1932). 

But she had many affairs, male and female. Her adopted daughters (six of them) called the Isadorables, after the loss of her own two children, raised and taught by their mother, spread her modern dance gospel after she died in a bizarre car accident in 1927. Three of them, Therese, Irma and Anna by Arnold Genthe below.


Abraham Walkowitz (1878-1965) created some 5000 (!) modernist drawings of Isodora. Studies of movement, meeting her in Rodin’s studio and likewise attracted by the combination of person, of movement and of form. Duncan in 1916 seeing Walkowitz work would say:” Walkowitz, you have written my biography in lines without words”.

Walkowitz will have been inspired by Rodin's series of drawings of Cambodian dancers using just the outlines in pencil and dashes of color. The Khmer dancers accompanied the visit of King Sisiwath of Cambodia to France in 1906.

Also in Paris from 1907 Walkowitz probably would have witnessed the birth of Henri Matisse’s (1869-1954) “ La Dance” in 1909.

Edward Steichen (1879-1973), the photographer accompanying Isodora to her trip to Greece saw adopted daughter and pupil Therese Duncan  (née Kruger, 1895-1987) in 1921 and snap-shot his remarkable photograph on the Acropolis: “Windfire”, the reincarnation of a Greek nymph. But when you know it, also in a posing almost identical to her mothers statue.

Well that’s more then enough for a rainy day posting, hope you've enjoyed. 

And last:model Eliza Tuturman as Isadora Duncan by contemporary photographer Ian Cartwright.

All pictures borrowed freely from the Internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use only.

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