Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Louise Brooks included in early Ted Shawn book

Another of my recent eBay wins is Shawn Der Tanzer, by Katherine S. Drier. This pictorial book, which surveys the artistry of one of the founders of the Denishawn Dance Company, was published in Berlin, Germany in 1933 by Drei Masken Verlag. I really didn't know much of anything about this book, aside from having seen it listed in various bibliographies. Nevertheless, I thought I would take a chance on it and bid. Fortunately, I won the auction for a modest amount.

Though she is not mentioned by name, I was pleased to find four images in the book of the Denishawn company which include Louise Brooks. (There may be two others.) This publication does not mark the actress' first pictorial representation in a book, as that distinction belongs to Picture Show Annual 1928, a book about the movies published in London, England. It does mark her earliest pictorial representation as a dancer. (Brooks time as a member of the Denishawn Dance Company was seldom mentioned in books or scholarly publications until the 1980s.)

The book includes photographs by Ralph Hawkins, along with Rudolf, Robertson, Binder, Does, Hirano, Mortensen, Townsend, Hiller, Muray, Sunami, Snyder, White Studios, Selby Studios, Bigelow und Arthur Kales

Notably, the author, Katherine S. Drier, was an American artist and important art collector and co-founder of the Société Anonyme, as well as a friend and associate of Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray. The latter was a fan of Louise Brooks.

What's also notable and intersting about this particular copy of the book is that it was distributed in the United States. On its front endpapers, the book bears a trade label for the B. Westerman Co of New York City. I don't know if they were a book distributor or book shop or both. Nevertheless, one wonders if Louise Brooks herself or denizens of New York or fans of Denishawn or modern dance noticed the images of Brooks in this early book. (Though admittedly you have to know its her to pick her out. The images are not very well reproduced. Hence, my four or maybe six notation.) 

Here is one of the pages from Shawn Der Tanzer which includes a picture of Denishawn from the time Louise Brooks was a member. The teen aged dancer and future actress can be seen on the second level of the structure on the left. She is sitting in the image on the top, and standing along side Ted Shawn in the image on the bottom.

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