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Dame Adeline Genée

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Dame Adeline Genée

by Alice Boughton
platinum print, 1914
7 3/4 in. x 5 1/2 in. (197 mm x 140 mm)
Purchased, 1982
Primary Collection
NPG P206

Sitterback to top

  • Dame Adeline Genée (1878-1970), Ballet dancer, choreographer and teacher; founder and President of the Royal Academy of Dancing. Sitter associated with 24 portraits.

Artistback to top

This portraitback to top

New York-based Boughton took this photograph while Genée was touring the United States. She photographed her in the theatre, between acts, standing on her toes and knitting for soldiers.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 177 Read entry

    In her book Photographing the Famous (1928) the New York photographer Alice Boughton reproduces a variant of this delicate photograph of the great ballet dancer and teacher Adeline Genée, and tells how it was taken when Genée was on tour in America:

    During the first year of the war, I photographed Mlle. Genée knitting for soldiers ... I was obliged to go to the theatre and get what I could between acts ... I shall always remember the scene - the dancer was standing on her toes in the wings, breaking in some new ballet slippers and looking like a bit of thistle-down. She was knitting a long woolen stocking with lightning-like rapidity. There was very little light to work by, and as the picture had to be a time exposure I told her to stand on her toes as long as she could and squeak as a signal that the limit was reached. I counted 60 and got it. She then sprang over some rope, followed by her manager who in turn was followed by the Keith [vaudeville theatre] manager, and all three went round and round back of the scene … keeping perfect time to the refrain of 'Steamboat Bill', which was being sung by a 'gent' out front.

    Born in Jutland Anina Jensen, Genée came to England in 1897 to dance what became her best known role, Coppélia, and soon achieved with her virtuoso footwork and impudent prettiness a reputation unrivalled in this country since Taglioni in the 1830s. Max Beerbohm (no. 82) wrote of her: 'Genée! It is a name that our grandchildren will cherish … And Alas! our grandchildren will never believe, will never be able to imagine, what Genée was'.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 240

Placesback to top

Events of 1914back to top

Current affairs

Following Germany's declaration of war on France and invasion of Belgium, Herbert Henry Asquith, the British Prime Minister, declares war on the German Empire on August 4, 1914. The popular belief that the conflict would be 'over by Christmas' was soon found to be a bitter underestimate of the scale of the war.

Art and science

The fist issue of the periodical Blast is published by Wyndham Lewis, announcing the advent of Vorticism. This movement, named by Ezra Pound and taking in art and poetry, combined the vitality and dynamism of Italian Futurism with the geometric structure of Cubism. Vorticism was a direct challenge to the perceived quaint and domestic style of the Bloomsbury group and Roger Fry's Omega Workshop.


On June 28th 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria is assassinated in Sarajevo leading to Austria's declaration of war against Serbia and triggering the First World War. Germany declared war on Serbia's ally, Russia, and then marched on France via Belgium. Soon all of Europe and most of the world was embroiled in total war.

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