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Martha Graham

Modern dance pioneer Martha Graham (1894–1991) found inspiration for her revolutionary choreography in American themes, literature, classical mythology, and contemporary music, as well as in the work of visual artists, from painters Vassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee to sculptors Isamu Noguchi and Alexander Calder (both of whom designed sets for her productions).

For much of her career, however, Graham resisted having any of her ballets photographed or filmed, insisting that her work should only exist live on stage. Luckily, she made a few exceptions; she worked with Imogen Cunningham in the 1930s, Barbara Morgan in the 1940s, and Philippe Halsman extensively from 1946 to 1949. This dramatic image of a whirling Graham performing in Dark Meadow (1946) illustrates what the choreographer herself called the most complete photographic record of any of her dances. Halsman captured not only a record of her choreography, but also a sense of the intensity and energy of her performance.

Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art’s collection includes a photograph of an older Martha Graham by Andy Warhol (Eskenazi Museum of Art 2008.138). See our Shot By Warhol module for more information.

Philippe Halsman
American and Russian (born Latvia), 1906–1979
Martha Graham
Gelatin silver print
Image: 13 5/8 x 11 1/16 in. (34.6 x 28.1 cm); sheet: 13 15/16 x 11 5/16 in. (35.4 x 28.7 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 78.72.3

Large image not available.