Boca Raton Museum of Art
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May 1, 2016
Art world connections: Smithsonian, BRMA and Isadora Duncan

On June 4, 2009 the Smithsonian art blog Eye Level posted an entry, "Isadora Duncan," written by Howard Kaplan. I found that some items in the Smithsonian - which incidentally celebrates its 163rd birthday today - collection dovetail with those in ours. The combination of items and the histories behind them help to recreate a microcosm of the art world from the early twentieth century. Let's consider:

First, Kaplan describes some sketches created by Abraham Walkowitz of American ballet dancer/modern dance icon Isadora Duncan. The featured image on Eye Level shows a figure in a red tunic gaily dancing across a stage, her hair flowing behind her jubilant body.

We have in our collection, a watercolor of Isadora Duncan by Walkowitz titled Isadora Duncan (Yellow Toga). She stands, back curved in towards her body with arms out and yellow fabric draped and falling to the floor.

Abraham Walkowitz (American, born Tyumen, Siberia 1878 - 1965), Isadora Duncan (Yellow Toga), 1909, watercolor on paper, 9 ĺ x 8 inches. Permanent Collection 2002.095. Gift of Mr. Sid Deutsch.

I imagine if one were to see a whole suite of these watercolors together they would create a series dedicated to dance poses and costuming. Howard goes on to explain that the Grecian tunic was Duncan's clothing of choice and that Edward Steichen had photographed her in Greece wearing said tunics during the 1920s. 

Currently on exhibit in Camera Work: Photography from the Permanent Collection, we have an array of photographs by Edward Steichen, and one striking photograph in particular, of Auguste Rodin from 1903. The photogravure (pictured below) demonstrates Steichen's Pictorialist period, showing Rodin's dark silhouette posed in sober meditation, similar to his sculpture The Thinker (Le Penseur), against the half-tones of the plaster cast Hugo statue in the background.

Edward Steichen (American, born Luxembourg 1879 - 1973), Rodin, 1903, gum photogravure, 18 3/8 x 6 3/8 inches. Permanent Collection 2007.5.113. Bequest of Isadore and Kelly Friedman

This photograph was featured in Volume Two of Alfred Stieglitz's magazine Camera Work, for which our exhibit is titled. Edward Steichen was quite a prolific photographer during the start of the century and busied himself both before and after World War I with photographing prominent people in the art and fashion worlds (in addition to the straight style of photography centered around city life). 

Which brings us to another interesting point; Steichen's photograph of Rodin solidifies the link that Eye Level's Kaplan made about the circle of people that gathered at Alfred Stieglitz's studio, 291 Gallery in Manhattan. Kaplan goes on to explain that Walkowitz met Duncan at Rodin's studio in Paris and went on to create the colorful watercolors, two of which are in our and the Smithsonian's collections.     

A tight little coterie has emerged through the study of both art and history, as demonstrated by the items collected and studied at both the Smithsonian and the Boca Museum. It seems that Rodin was the common link between Steichen, Duncan and Walkowitz for some time during the early 1900s.

I'm always intrigued when people whom I admire were all acquaintances. It sets me to wondering about the amazing experiences and conversations they must have had.  


Posted by: Kelli Bodle @ Monday, August 10, 2009 11:18:02 am 
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