Alexey Brodovitch, Ballet, Text by Edwin Denby, the entire edition, signed and inscribed by Brodovitch in pencil, 1945. Estimate: $8,000 to 12,000.
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.
Alexey Brodovitch, Untitled (from the Ballet Series, Les Sylphides), silver print, 1935-1937; printed 1950s-early 1960s. Estimate: $8,000 to 12,000.
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.