Isadora Duncan in Watercolor, by the Artist Who Painted Her Thousands of Times


Abraham Walkowitz, watercolor of Isadora Duncan in a dance pose (1906-27)

Isadora Duncan was one of the most famous and innovative dancers of all times. At the Paris studio of Auguste Rodin in 1906, Siberia-born American painter Abraham Walkowitz met Isadora and from then until her untimely death in 1927, when her long scarf fatally tangled into the wheel of her car in Nice, she was his muse that led to numerous amazing sketches. The New York Public Library recently digitized a series of these watercolor and pen drawings that show the avant garde dancer in moments of motion.

The watercolors are part of the library’s Jerome Robbins Dance Division, the world’s largest archive on the documentation of dance. While the Division includes numerous portraits of Isadora — posing at the Parthenon in 1920, leaping over the waves in 1915, and in the portrait studio— the illustrations suggest something of her unconventional movement lost in the static captures. Each watercolor sketch was quickly made, with a few dark lines forming her silhouette lunging forward, leaping with her head thrown back, and holding colored cloth, always barefoot, which was radical from the classical ballet style. Her variously colored Delphos, inspired by the classical greek arts, tunics in mauve, blue, and red flow around her body in Walkowitz’s art, hinting the rapid changes in her positions.

Almost all of Walkowitz’s illustrations were left as raw sketches, although one in the Museum of Modern Art from 1927 was completed as a painting, a memorial after her death. Unlike the sketches he made during her lifetime, there’s a stationary position to this painting, representing the end of all that movement which would influence the modern dance of the 20th century.


Abraham Walkowitz, watercolor of Isadora Duncan in a dance pose (1906-27)


Abraham Walkowitz, watercolor of Isadora Duncan in a dance pose (1906-27)


Abraham Walkowitz, watercolor of Isadora Duncan in a dance pose (1906-27)


Abraham Walkowitz, watercolor of Isadora Duncan in a dance pose (1906-27)


Abraham Walkowitz, watercolor of Isadora Duncan in a dance pose (1906-27)


Abraham Walkowitz, watercolor of Isadora Duncan in a dance pose (1906-27)


Abraham Walkowitz, watercolor of Isadora Duncan in a dance pose (1906-27)


Abraham Walkowitz, watercolor of Isadora Duncan in a dance pose (1906-27)


Abraham Walkowitz, watercolor of Isadora Duncan in a dance pose (1906-27)


Abraham Walkowitz, watercolor of Isadora Duncan in a dance pose (1906-27)


Abraham Walkowitz, watercolor of Isadora Duncan in a dance pose (1906-27)


Abraham Walkowitz, watercolor of Isadora Duncan in a dance pose (1906-27)


Abraham Walkowitz, watercolor of Isadora Duncan in a dance pose (1906-27)

View all the digitized Abraham Walkowitz’s watercolors of Isadora Duncan online at the New York Public Library.
(all images courtesy the New York Public Library)
via: hyperallergic.com
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