Brain Pickings

Vintage Ballet: Rare Photos of Dancers from the 1930s-1950s

By:

Drama, glamor and elegance converge in amazing archival images of ballet dancers from the early 20th century.

Since its origins in the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th century, ballet has been considered one of humanity’s most graceful and beautiful forms of creative expression. These fantastic archival images from the State Library of New South Wales collection capture the elegance of ballet alongside the classic, dramatic glamor of vintage photography from the early 20th century.

Valentina Blinova in L'Oiseau de feu (The Firebird), Ballets Russes, Sydney, 1936-1937 / photographed by Max Dupain

Paul Petrov in L'Oiseau de feu (The Firebird), Ballets Russes, Sydney, 1936-1937 / photographed by Max Dupain

Tamara Toumanova & Serge Lifar, Swan Lake, Sydney, 1939-1940 / photographed by Max Dupain

Emmy Towsey (Taussig) and Evelyn Ippen, Bodenwieser Ballet in Centennial Park, Sydney, ca. 1939 / photographed by Max Dupain

Tatiana Riabouchinska and Roman Jasinsky in Les Dieux mendiants (The Gods go a-begging), between Nov 1938-Aug 1940 / photographed by Max Dupain

Tatiana Riabouchinska, ballerina, ca. 1938 / photographed by Maurice Seymour

Margaret Barr's 'Strange Children' (ballet), 1955 / photographer unknown

Valentina Blinova in L'Oiseau de feu (The Firebird), Ballets Russes, Sydney, 1936-1937 / photographed by Max Dupain

Unidentified dancer (Yura Lazovsky?) as Petrouchka, Sydney, March 1940 / photographed by Sam Hood

For more on this fascinating and endlessly inspiring piece of cultural history, I highly recommend Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet by New Republic dance critic Jennifer Homans, which offers not only breathtaking eye candy but also traces many of today’s cultural values back to ballet’s legacy of discipline and virtuosity.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

How Shakespeare Changed Everything

By:

What Central Park wildlife has to do with Freud and Abe Lincoln’s assassination.

An ambitious and entertaining new book by Esquire columnist Stephen Marche explores the many, often unsuspected ways in which the great playwright shaped just about every facet of contemporary culture. How Shakespeare Changed Everything is equal parts homage to the iconic bard and rigorously researched, fascinating look at how his work permeated aspects of pop culture and everyday life far beyond his genre and his era.

From how Romeo and Juliet introduced the concept of adolescence to the 1,700 words Shakespeare coined (including lackluster, fashionable and the name Jessica) to how his plays provided the foundation for Freudian psychology and concepts of healthy sex life, Marche blends light trivia-worthy historical factoids with a deep respect for the legendary writer’s legacy.

Shakespeare is the foremost poet in the world. All of the scriptwriting books cite him as the dominant influence on Hollywood. He has had more influence on the novel than any novelist. The greater the artist, the more he or she was influenced by Shakespeare. Dickens and Keats were more inspired by Shakespeare than anybody, and their familiarity with Shakespeare seems to have made them more original, not less.” ~ Stephen Marche

Perhaps most fascinating of all is to consider how mind-boggling this wide-spanning influence would’ve been to Shakespeare himself. Unbeknownst to him, he “founded” spiritual movements, informed war strategies, validated romantic rituals, and shaped the very core of our moral codes. He even changed North American wildlife when, in 1890, one man decided to release 60 English starlings in Central Park in an effort to introduce every bird Shakespeare ever mentioned to North America.

[Shakespeare has] been the unwitting founder of intellectual movements he would never have endorsed and the secret presence behind spiritual practices he could never have imagined. He has been used as a crude political instrument by all sides in conflicts of which he could never have conceived. His vision has been assumed by saints and by murderers. At the bottom of all these slippery chains of consequences and perverted manifestations of his talent dwells the unique ability of Shakespeare to place his finger on people’s souls.” ~ Stephen Marche

For a taste of How Shakespeare Changed Everything, the National Post has a handsome excerpt.

Thanks, Julia

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

LE GUN 1,2,3: Bleeding-Edge Illustration from Around the Globe

By:

What flying to Paris has to do with creative entrepreneurship and global provocations.

In 2004, a small group of graduates from London’s Royal College of Art founded art collective LE GUN and quietly started publishing one of the most compelling art and design magazines to come by in decades. Dedicated to celebrating the work of illustrators from around the globe, LE GUN instantly charmed audiences and critics, but its small scale and indie roots made access to it limited and coveted. Now, my friends from Mark Batty Publisher have gathered the first three issues of the magazine in LE GUN 1,2,3 — an impressive, handsome tome that captures LE GUN‘s rich spectrum of creativity and provocative, relentlessly original artwork.

In the book’s introduction, RCA professor Andrzej Klimowski, who advised the founding team, tells the project’s inspired story — a tale of imagination, transformation and creative entrepreneurship.

Many middle-aged people turn to their medicine cabinets for vitamin pills or, more drastically, turn to the knife for cosmetic surgery or the botox injection in a desperate attempt to hold onto their youth. I need only brush shoulders with the artists of LE GUN to be imbued with the elixir of life, which is so vital that it makes my hair stand on end.” ~ Andrzej Klimowski

With 400 pages and weighing in at over 6 pounds, the tome is, without any exaggeration, enormous.

Esoteric and beautiful, LE GUN 1,2,3 is an absolute treat of imagination, artistry and visual eloquence from cover to heavy cover.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.