May 20, 2010 - Sale 2215

Sale 2215 - Lot 33

Price Realized: $ 9,600
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 8,000 - $ 12,000
Text by Edwin Denby. Elegantly illustrated with 104 photogravure reproductions of Brodovitch's enchanting photographs of several ballet companies, including the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Oblong 8vo, plain boards with a cloth spine; French-fold printed gray dust jacket, split at creases of spine (clean), just lightly soiled. Roth 110; Hasselblad 136; Parr/Badger I 240. one of 500 copies, the entire edition, this copy signed and inscribed by brodovitch in pencil.
(New York): (J.J. Augustin Publisher), (1945)

Additional Details

The inscription reads "With love and good luck, God bless you."
From the photographer; to Patty Kravitt Ellis in 1967.
Ellis was an art student when her photography instructor introduced her to Brodovitch, who became her mentor and friend. Before moving to France, in 1967, Brodovitch presented her with this title and four inscribed photographs (lots 308-311) and the book Ballet. She writes: "He was a great friend. A great mentor. An inspiration. A presenter of bold ideas. He enhanced my life."

A recent emigrant from Russia, Alexey Brodovitch's first encounter with ballet came at age 22 after a fortuitous meeting with fellow-exile Sergei Diaghilev, the impresario of the Ballets Russes in Paris. He 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, would become one of the most influential bodies of work of the period. Brodovitch's inspired eye for movement render individual images that are transcendently elegant, but in what is, perhaps, the series' most authentic format, the book, Brodovitch's ability to evoke the music, movement and the overall sense of ecstasy of the dances themselves is brought into even sharper perspective.

Divided into eleven sections according to ballet, the book begins with a Contents page printed in various types (which may reflect the original type used on promotional posters for the ballets). Brodovitch's innovations as art director of Harper's Bazaar are evident there and in the rhythmic sequencing, fully bled pages that seem to not only extend off the page, but into each other, and the rich contrast of the photogravure printing. The book's oblong format recalls a stage (and perhaps the dust jacket's elongated type almost like the heavy, and deceptively simple, curtains about to rise for a performance) and inside Brodovitch uses the shapes of the dancers's bodies, the lights, the architecture of the stage sets and his own cropping techniques (see lots 308-311) to render the dance's progression in a rise and fall that mimics the scores themselves (the only breaks occur for the titles of the ballets). We see the dancers backstage, in their dressing room and on stage, creating a dynamic interplay between performance and preparation, quiet repose and blurred leaps of gauzy white.

Published in 1945 by the small New York publisher J.J. Augustin, the modest edition (approximately 500 copies) was not, apparently, offered for sale in bookstores, but distributed by Brodovitch himself to a small but elite circle. In 1956 a fire at his Pennsylvania farmhouse destroyed most of the negatives.