Isadora Duncan (Painting #11 of 13) “Influential Women”


Isadora Duncan

Isadora Duncan
1877 – 1927

“Farewell, my friends. I go to glory!”

By the end of her life, Isadora Duncan’s performing career had dwindled and she became as notorious for her financial woes, scandalous love life and all-too-frequent public drunkenness, as for her contributions to the arts.

At the beginning of Isadora’s career, she broke with dance conventions. Duncan traced the art of dance back to its roots as a sacred art. She developed a style of free and natural movements inspired by the classical Greek arts, folk dances, social dances, nature and natural forces, as well as an approach to the new American athleticism which included skipping, running, jumping, leaping and tossing. She founded dance schools, based on her technique in the US, France, Russia and Germany. She was lauded throughout Europe for her fresh approach to the art of dance. She sustained herself and her family by performing in public as well as private venues.

There is some speculation the nude woman in Eadweard Muybridge movement photo studies (Nude descending a staircase) is, Mary Isadora Gray, Isadora’s mother. Both Muybridge and Isadoria’s mother were living in San Fransisco at the  time of Muybridge’s photo studies.  Joseph Charles Duncan, Isadora’s father, was a banker, mining engineer and connoisseur of the arts. Soon after Isadora’s birth, her father lost his bank and was publicly disgraced. As a result the family became extremely poor.

Isadora’s childhood was an unhappy one. There was strife and divorce, her mother insisted her father was a demon in human garb. Her mother disavowed the religion in which she was raised, and she espoused  the atheism of Robert Ingersoll. These elements shaped Isadora’s childhood. When  eventually meeting her father, Isadora found him to be a charming, lovable poet. Passing years softened the intolerance of childhood, but Isadora Duncan never lost her contempt for the institution of marriage as she knew it. When she was twelve years old, she made a solemn vow that she would welcome love when it came, but she would never marry.

Isadora engaged in many romances with both men and women, and seemed to create scandals wherever she went. She was a noted renegade throughout her 50 years of life. Perhaps this added to her reputation as a non-traditional dancer. She adopted communism and was expelled from the US as a result, but this too she jettisoned when that ideology turned out to be false.

No stranger to tragedy, Isadora lost her two children to a freak accident not unlike her own tragic death. She was strangled to death when her long flowing scarf, which she was noted for, caught in the spokes of the open-top car in which she was riding. Her children and their nanny were drowned when the driver of their car forgot to set the hand brake when he got out to crank the car in order to start it. The car rolled into a river.

She will forever be known as the “mother of modern dance” – a claim that she no doubt would have relished.

(painting photo: Mark Serman)

© Laurence Revene, 2014

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~ by Larry Revene on July 11, 2014.

One Response to “Isadora Duncan (Painting #11 of 13) “Influential Women””

  1. […] Isadora Duncan (Painting #11 of 13) “Influential Women” […]

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