Saturday, January 7, 2012

Loie Fuller

We discovered Loie Fuller on the Netflix DVD "Picasso and Braque Go to the Movies." This documentary is a fascinating look at how these artists were influenced by early cinema. The DVD's extras included footage of Fuller, an American dancer who became a worldwide sensation for her solo original dances. She manipulated flowing fabric around her body to sublime effect. Her rise to fame culminated in France, where she lived for the second half of her life, and where she was beloved by the artists and writers of the day.

The above photos come from Fuller's autobiography, "15 Years of a Dancer's Life, With Some Account of Her Distinguished Friends," published in 1913 with an introduction by Anatole France. (The original French version was published in 1908.) You can find her autobiography online here. Anatole France says, "I had seen her only as she had been seen by multitudes from every corner of the globe, on the stage, waving her draperies in the first light, or transformed into a great resplendent lily, revealing to us a new and dignified type of beauty. I had the honor of being presented to her at a luncheon of the tour du monde at Boulogne. I saw an American lady with small features, with blue eyes, like water in which a pale sky is reflected, rather plump, quiet, smiling, refined...the expression of her eyes...changes like the landscapes that are disclosed along a beautiful highway."

Above: Portrait of Loie Fuller by Frederick Glasier, 1902. Fuller became a great friend of Queen Marie of Romania and, through a connection at the U.S. embassy in Paris, helped arrange a U.S. loan for Romania during World War I. Together, Queen Marie, Loie Fuller, and American businessman Sam Hill founded the Maryhill Museum of Art in rural Washington State. This museum has a permanent exhibition about Fuller's life and career.

Above: Fuller in her garden at Passy in France. I had never heard of this extraordinary dancer and was glad for the chance to learn about her. A woman who started out with no special connections or prospects, she lived her own fairytale through sheer determination.