According to photography historian Mary Panzer, Muray “received considerable acclaim for his images of male dancers such as Ted Shawn and Hubert Stowitts. In a late memoir, Muray recalled that he first photographed dancers to impress Frank Crowninshield, for whom modern dance was a ‘pet project.’ Crowninshield immediately published one of Muray’s barefoot dancers in translucent costume, and Muray’s reputation blossomed.” Muray also made nude portraits of female dancers such as Rose Rolanda. Panzer notes that Muray’s dancer photographs are characterized by a tension between the liberated sexuality of the Roaring Twenties and the relatively conservative Pictorialist photographic style he employed with soft focus and shadowy lighting: “The uninhibited (and undressed) poses, the slender bodies, beautiful according to the standards of a new generation, the obvious pleasure these dancers take in performance all contrast with Muray’s old-fashioned photographic style.”
Nickolas Muray was an acclaimed and prolific New York photographer of celebrity portraits over a 45-year career. Born in Hungary, he arrived in New York City in 1913. Muray began his commercial photography career after World War I, and produced some 10,000 portraits in the 1920s and ’30s alone. He produced editorial and advertising images for magazines as diverse as McCall’s, Good Housekeeping, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar. His earliest celebrity portraits were of avant-garde dancers, including Ruth St. Denis and Martha Graham, but he later photographed popular performers on assignment such as Al Jolson and Shirley Temple. Muray became close to a circle of Mexican modern artists visiting or living in New York, including Miguel Covarrubias, Olga and Rufino Tamayo, Diego Rivera, and Frida Kahlo, and amassed a notable collection of Mexican art. Perhaps his most famous photograph is a 1939 portrait of Kahlo made during their 10-year love affair. The affair ended in 1941 when it became clear that she would never marry him, although they remained friends until her death in 1954.
Hubert Julian Stowitts was an American ballet dancer, actor and artist. Stowitts was raised among the Lakota tribe in South Dakota. In 1911, his family moved to California and he entered Berkeley, where he was captain of the track team. During those years he began studying ballet and performing ballet on the side, and after graduating set aside plans to attend graduate school at Harvard to join Anna Pavlova’s company on tour, where he became known for his athleticism and for being the first American to star in a Russian ballet company. After six seasons, he left for a solo career, living in Paris and performing throughout Europe. He retired from dancing in 1925 and became a painter and actor, living for several years in Indonesia and Asia. His paintings of Bali and India, and of nude male American athletes brought him acclaim in the 1930s. His work fell out of favor in his later years and he died in poverty.
Stamped verso: “When published please give credit to Nickolas Muray 129 Macdougal St., N. Y. C.”
Condition: Photograph generally very good, recently professionally cleaned and deacidified, and also to remove old mucilage glue dots that connected it to original mount, now very good overall with minor toning and wear and pale faint remaining shadows from former glue dots. Original mount professionally cleaned and deacidified, with some light remaining toning, wear, and pale faint dampstaining in margins Photograph archivally reattached (hinged) to mount with rice paper.
Grimberg, Salomon. “Nickolas Muray and Frida Kahlo.” PDNB Gallery. https://pdnbgallery.com/SITE/nickolas-muray/nickolas-muray-frida-kahlo.html (9 January 2020).
Mears, Peter. “Nickolas Muray, His Friends, and His Art Collection” in Kurt Heinzelman, ed. and Peter Mears. The Covarrubias Circle: Nickolas Muray’s Collection of Twentieth-Century Mexican Art. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2004. p. 12.
“Nickolas Muray, Hubert Julian Stowitts.” Eastman Museum. https://collections.eastman.org/objects/8725/hubert-julian-stowitts/related/7 (10 January 2020).
Panzer, Mary. “The Essential Tact of Nickolas Muray” in Kurt Heinzelman, ed. and Peter Mears, eds. The Covarrubias Circle: Nickolas Muray’s Collection of Twentieth-Century Mexican Art. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2004. pp. 21, 31-32.
Rutledge, Stephen. “#Art Dept: The Astonishing, Hubert Julian Stowitts.” 14 October 2018. World of Wonder. https://worldofwonder.net/artdept-the-astonishing-hubert-julian-stowitts/ (9 January 2020).