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Ninette de Valois

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Ninette de Valois

by Gordon Anthony
bromide print, 1937
19 3/8 in. x 14 7/8 in. (493 mm x 377 mm)
Purchased, 1988
Photographs Collection
NPG x44790

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Gordon Anthony (1902-1989), Photographer. Artist of 114 portraits, Sitter in 1 portrait.

This portraitback to top

The background of this photograph makes reference to the ballet Checkmate, which premiered at Sadler's Wells in October 1937, with libretto and music by Arthur Bliss and designs by Edward McKnight Kauffer. The photographer, Gordon Anthony, was de Valois's brother.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Pioneering Women, p. 105 Read entry

    Born Edris Stannus in County Wicklow, Ireland, Dame Ninette de Valois (1898-2001) – known in the dance world as ‘Madam’ – was a major force in twentieth-century ballet. A dancer, choreographer and teacher, she was the founder-director of the Royal Ballet and its national ballet school, which set international standards. She had started ballet lessons aged eleven, trained at the Lila Field Academy, London, and danced with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes for two years from 1923. In 1926, she founded the Academy of Choreographic Art – which became the Royal Ballet in 1956 – and established other schools, including Abbey School of Ballet, Dublin, in 1928 and the Birmingham Royal Ballet in 1946. She helped launch the career of Prima Ballerina Assoluta Margot Fonteyn. Among the major ballets she created were Job (1931), The Rake’s Progress (1935) and Checkmate (1937), to which the background of this photograph, taken by her brother, refers. She retired from the Royal Ballet directorship in 1963, thereafter devoting herself to the school. She was made a Dame in 1957 and awarded the Order of Merit in 1992.

  • Faces of the Century, 1999 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 22 October 1999 to 30 January 2000), p. 211

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1937back to top

Current affairs

George VI becomes king. The younger brother of Edward VIII was crowned on the 12th May and the coronation was broadcast to Britain and the Empire on the radio. Edward becomes the Duke of Windsor, although the rank of 'Royal Highness' is not extended to Wallis Simpson.
Neville Chamberlain becomes Prime Minister following Baldwin's retirement.

Art and science

Roland Penrose organises a tour of Picasso's painting Guernica to the UK. The painting, which shows the horrors of the Spanish Civil War, went on display at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in East London.
A new synthetic fabric is invented and named after New York and London: Nylon.


Commercial airship travel is brought to an end with the 'Hindenberg Disaster'. The German airship exploded while landing in New Jersey. The radio broadcaster Herbert Morrison's reaction has become legendary: 'Oh, the humanity!'
Japan invades China, killing about 25,000. Japanese Troops committed numerous atrocities against soldiers and civilians in what became known as the 'Rape of Nanking'.

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