Alexey Brodovitch: Ballet

Both sections of the May 20, 2010 Photographic Literature and Important Photographs auction at Swann feature highlight items by Alexey Brodovitch, the late Harper’s Bazaar art director and photographer.  

Brodovitch’s Encounter with Ballet

As a recent immigrant from Russia, Brodovitch’s first encounter with ballet came at the age of 22 after a fortuitous meeting with fellow exile Sergei Diaghilev, the impresario of the Ballets Russes in Paris. Brodovitch soon began painting sets for the troupe and fell in love with the art form. Later, after moving to New York, Brodovitch began photographing visiting ballet companies for what he termed “souvenir purposes.” The resulting series, all done between 1935 and 1937, became one of the most influential bodies of work of the period. 

Brodovitch’s inspired eye rendered elegant images that evoked the music, movement and overall ecstasy of the dances themselves. At the same time, his heavily manipulated negatives emphasize tiny details within the photograph, whether accentuating a raised arm or the swish of a skirt.                                      

Ballet was published in 1945 by the small New York publisher J.J. Augustin; the modest edition of approximately 500 copies was not for sale in bookstores, but distributed by Brodovitch himself to a select few. 

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