TheUCLA Library has acquired the largest private collection ever assembled of rarematerials by and about modern dance pioneer Isadora Duncan (1877/78-1927).Built by
"IsadoraDuncan is one of the most important artistic figures of the twentieth centuryas well as a native Californian, and this collection, one of the most extensivein the world, will be invaluable to students and scholars in a variety offields," said University Librarian Gary E. Strong. "A mere 18 days before her recent death,longtime donor Joan Palevsky made an extraordinarygift of the funds to acquire it. We aredeeply saddened by her passing, but we hope this collection, and the manyothers whose acquisitions she made possible, will form a lasting tribute to herexemplary generosity."
Amongthe collection's highlights are numerous manuscripts in Duncan's hand, manyunpublished, about dance, life, her artistic philosophy, teaching and herhusband; numerous writings including a diary by Edward Gordon Craig about his collaborationsand relationship with Duncan; 19 letters by Duncan's adopted daughter Irmaabout her mother; 75 original contracts for appearances in Moscow, St.Petersburg and many locations in Germany; and 39 box office statements.
Thecollection contains more than 300 sculptures, sketches, watercolors and otherartworks by 13 artists, including Antoine Bourdelle,Gordon Craig, Jules Grandjouan, Robert Henri, DameLaura Knight and Andr Dunoyer de Segonzac. It also includes such unique items as
"Isadora Duncanis the 'mother of us all,' the seminal dancer of the 20th century,exhorting us to love our bodies and be true to expression in movement. Shecarried the ideals of romanticism to their furthest reaches, exploring the selfand translating this experience into a joyful message of natural beauty lacedwith tragic loss. Would that all could follow her call 'I am going to dance thephilosophy of my life,' said Emma Lewis Thomas, professor emeritaof dance history. "In this collection the visual images of Isadora enhanced bythe personal letters and diary/notes/sketches of Edward Gordon Craig, IrmaDuncan and others are invaluable artifacts that transmit her legacy to futuregenerations of Californians."
Born in 1877 or1878 in
Her performanceswere innovative not only for her natural movements and Greek-inspired attire,allowing an "almost naked body to be seen on stage," according to Russianactor, director and producer Konstantin Stanislavsky, but also for her insistence on classical music accompaniment. Inspiredby live symphony orchestra performances, she improvised to compositions by Beethoven, Chopin, Corelli, Gluck, Mozart, Rameau,Schubert, Strauss, Tchaikovsky and Wagner and to the French and Soviet nationalanthems.
When World War Ibroke out,
Stanislavskykept a Greek vase Duncan gave him in his sparsely furnished bedroom in theMoscow Conservatory; Eleanora Duse and Cosima Wagner were touched by her natural creativity, aswere Ballets Russes greats Mikhail Fokine, Vaslav Nijinsky and impresario Sergei Diaghilev. In later, years, Sir Frederick Ashton,Kenneth MacMillan and countless others have choreographed their homage to thiscreative artist.
About the Departmentof Special Collections
The UCLA Department of Special Collections was created in 1946 toadminister the UCLA Library's rare and unique materials in the humanities andsocial sciences. Recognized today as one of the country's topspecial-collections departments, it is supported by the circulating holdings ofthe Charles E. Young Research Library, where the department now resides.
The department's collections and programsencompass rare books and pamphlets from the 15th through the 20th centuries;extensive manuscript holdings; drawings, including original architecturaldrawings; early maps and atlases; and photographs, prints and paintings.Collections also contain artifacts, audiotape and videotape recordings,oral history transcripts, phonograph records, postcards, and posters.
"The IsadoraDuncan Collection enhances the department's dance holdings, making it anessential site for research on the study of the new, or 'aesthetic,' dancemovement that flourished at the turn of the 20th century," said VictoriaSteele, head of the department.
Relatedcollections include those of early modern dance pioneers Maud Allan and RuthSt. Denis; Duncan's creative collaborator, sometime manager, friend and loverEdward Gordon Craig and his mother, Ellen Terry; and Mary Desti,a close friend of Duncan's, as well as her son,Preston Sturges, who spent much of his childhood inEurope with his mother as she accompanied