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DAVIDSON Jo (1883 - 1951)
WALDRAFF Franz (1878)
Isadora Duncan with Walter Rummel.
BOURDELLE Antoine (1861 - 1921)
© ADAGP, Photo RMN-Grand Palais - T. Ollivier
Title: Isadora Duncan.
Author : WALDRAFF Franz (1878 -)
Dimensions: Height 29.4 - Width 22.8
Technique and other indications: Pencil, watercolor wash. Roland Bossard Collection.
Storage place: Private collection
Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot / All rights reserved website
Picture reference: 07-538783
© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot / All rights reserved
Title: Isadora Duncan with Walter Rummel.
Author : BOURDELLE Antoine (1861 - 1921)
Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0
Technique and other indications: Watercolor. Around 1918-1920.
Storage place: Bourdelle Museum website
Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - Bullozsite web
Picture reference: 00-022194
Isadora Duncan with Walter Rummel.
© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - Bulloz
Publication date: February 2016
Agrégée in Italian, Doctorate in Contemporary History at the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines
Renew the dance by drawing from its sources
It is in Paris, a showcase for all the avant-garde, that the myth of Isadora Duncan, leader of free dance, based on natural movements and on clothes better suited to the gestures and the body of the dancers, is forged. . Educated by her mother, a talented pianist sacrificed to the family home, to freedom and to a love for nature and the arts, Isadora shows a precocious talent for dance, but she refuses to learn academic dance and to settle down. to bend to the yoke of pointe shoes, corsets and tights which are the daily life of the dancers celebrated by Degas (see From class to stage, the Paris Opera ballet seen by Edgar Degas). Arriving in Europe in 1900, the dancer stood out in artistic salons in London, Paris, where she was supported by Loïe Fuller (see Loïe Fuller, embodiment of Symbolism on the stage), Munich and Berlin.
During the first two decades of the XXe century, Isadora Duncan is the ideal model for artists: passing through or living in Paris, designers, sculptors and photographers are inspired by her and her dance.
The joy of dancing from a modern muse
In 1907, the American sculptor Jo Davidson came to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. There he met Isadora Duncan, then at the height of his success: in this crisp pencil study, Davidson showcases the harmonious curves of the dancer's leg and arm muscles, depicted here in a pose that could be among the metopes of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées produced by Bourdelle in 1912-1913.
This statuary beauty comes to life in the watercolor painted by the German Franz Waldraff, who settled in France in 1902, first in Paris and then in Menton, where he produced sets, panels and illustrations for books. The simplicity of the lines and the freshness of the background colors, in delicate contrast with the candor of the body and the wavy folds of the pink tunic, correspond well to the dazzling and joyful grace of Isadora; the happiness she gets from dancing is also visible on her face.
After attending his performance of ’Iphigenia in Tauride de Gluck, in 1909, Antoine Bourdelle was passionate about the art of Isadora Duncan; the day after the show, he preserves the memory in one hundred and fifty drawings which begin an abundant artistic production inspired by Isadora. Among these works is a series of drawings celebrating dance and music, respectively represented by Isadora Duncan and the German pianist Walter Rummel (1887-1953). Living in Paris since 1908, Rummel is one of the most important promoters of Debussy's music (see Debussy and the musical revival); between 1918 and 1920, he forged a sentimental and artistic relationship with Isadora under the sign of deep aesthetic exaltation.
Bourdelle shed light on the interpretation of this watercolor, the most successful of the cycle, by the didascalie which he noted in another watercolor which he indicated was his “1st sketch” on the same subject: “Isadora genius of dance. / The mysterious spirit of the piano. The musician Rummel and the musical Sphinx. Isadora dances the Marseillaise. The singing doves. / The laurel wreath is the crown of the students ". The dark background brings out the brown and golden silhouettes, and, by a stronger contrast, the candor of the bodies of the characters. The power of the piano tames the musical Sphinx, who seems to be one with the instrument whose feet form its paws. In front of the piano, Isadora, represented in a pose reminiscent of vase paintings or Greek friezes, is surrounded by her students, who will continue her work. Laurels and doves evoke the glory and peace brought by art.
A Hellenism tinged with modernity
At the end of the XIXe century, ballet is the subject of a radical debate concerning its technical and aesthetic aspects as well as its social implications. Academic dance, born in Europe in a masculine, aristocratic and highly intellectualized environment, codified and regulated by a very strict discipline of the body, opposes a new dance, created by three American women, Loïe Fuller (see Loïe Fuller, incarnation Symbolism on the stage), Isadora Duncan and Ruth St Denis. Each in their own way, these artists claim the role of dance as a total experience that frees bodies and uplifts spirits through communion with the other arts, as well as with nature (especially in Duncan) and scientific progress (in particular for Fuller); in addition, these three dancers are also a model of emancipation for American and European women.
At the beginning of the XIXe century, during the neoclassical wave which, for the figurative arts, had its indisputable master in Antonio Canova, dance had already been influenced by Greek art, but only for aesthetic purposes; at the beginning of the XXe century, Isadora Duncan's Hellenizing choreographies revolutionized dance, reviving a lost tradition and showing modern dance the natural path. Isadora’s struggle for the liberation of the body is welcomed in Germany, where the Frei-Körper-Kultur ("Culture of the free body"). In 1905, Isadora Duncan founded her first school in Berlin, followed by two others, inaugurated in Meudon in 1913 and in Moscow in 1921. Her most famous disciples are the six young girls nicknamed "Isadorables" by the critic Fernand Divoire, whom Isadora officially adopted in 1920, seven years after the tragic death of her two children.
Admired by artists like Rodin, Bourdelle, Grandjouan and Dunoyer de Segonzac, and by directors like Craig and Stanislavski, adored by good international society, criticized for her tumultuous life, Isadora is not a frivolous woman: she struggles for the establishment of an equitable society and is committed so that, everywhere in the world, poor children are housed, fed and educated.
In 1927, Isadora Duncan had a tragic end in Nice: she died of strangulation by her veil which got caught in the spokes of a wheel of her convertible. This absurd death stops him on his revolutionary path, but his legend has already been born.
- Duncan (Isadora)
Isadora Duncan, 1877-1927, a living sculpture, catalog of the exhibition at the Musée Bourdelle, November 20, 2009 - March 14, 2010, Paris, Éditions Paris Musée, 2009. Odette ALLARD, Isadora, the Barefoot Dancer or the Isadorian Revolution: From Isadora Duncan to Malkovsky, Paris, Éditions des Ecrivains Associés, 1997 Isadora DUNCAN, My life, Paris, Gallimard, 1932.Isadora DUNCAN, Isadora dances the revolution, Paris, Editions du Rocher, 2002.Isadora DUNCAN, The Dance of the Future, texts chosen and translated by Sonia Schoonejans, followed by Insights on Isadora Duncan by Élie Faure, Colette and André Levinson, Paris, Éditions Complexe, 2003.
To cite this article
Gabriella ASARO, "Isadora Duncan between Hellenism and Modernity"