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Original Marion Morgan Dancers Photograph From Out of the Shadows

Original Marion Morgan Dancers Photograph From Out of the Shadows

  • ca 1920s
  • Arnold Genthe (1869-1942)
  • 7 x 9 inches ~ (17 x 22 cm)
  • Silver Gelatin Print
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  • The Marion Morgan Dancers was a troupe of predominantly female dancers founded and led by Marion Morgan (d. 1971) who performed interpretative dances based on classical legends and antiquity, such as Helen of Troy. Originally formed in California, they appeared on the vaudeville stage for nearly a decade, from 1916 to the mid-1920s. At that point, the group began working in Hollywood, contributing inserted dance sequences to films such as Don Juan (1926) and Up in Mabels Room (1926), the group and Morgans choreography did not survive the transition to sound films. Morgans dances emphasized pantomime and tableaux, as well as elaborate staging and costuming, as evidenced by this spectacular Genthe original photograph.

    Arnold Genthe : (1869-1942), born in Germany to a family of scholars, came to the United States in 1895 as a recent Ph.D. in classical philology to work for two years as a tutor. On his days off, he walked the streets of Chinatown in San Francisco, where he began to photograph. After publishing in local magazines, Genthe decided to open his own studio, specializing in portraits of prominent locals and visiting celebrities. Genthe's work and studio were destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire-- an event that he photographed as it unfolded throughout the streets of San Francisco. In 1911, Genthe relocated to New York, where he opened a portrait studio on Fifth Avenue. His career flourished there, as he photographed famous men and beautiful women including Greta Garbo for the pages of Vanity Fair Magazine. Financiers and at least three presidents sat for him; Theodore Roosevelt, William Henry Taft, and Woodrow Wilson. He also photographed modern dancers, including Anna Pavlova, Isadora Duncon, and Ruth St. Denis, and his photos were featured in the 1916 book, The Book of the Dance.
    Genthe was determined to create photographs that moved away from the stiffly posed style that was prevalent in portraiture at the time. To that end, he would photograph without announcing to his subjects the exact moment the exposure was made. His interest in capturing the natural character of the human spirit led him to be a perfect fit as a chronicler of the quickly developing and expanding modern dance culture, led by Isadora Duncan. Genthes goal was to create an image that suggested both the proceeding as well as the following movement, that suggested motion, fluent, dynamic and natural. In his memoir, Genthe spent several pages discussing the difficulty of photographing this ephemeral art form adequately, claiming that very few of his pictures do dance justice, even those published in the 1916 volume The Book of the Dance. He is considered one of the pioneers in the field of dance photography, and his images include some of the leading participants in early modern dance.

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