August von Munchhausen (1908-1995)
“Two Ballet Dancers” (circa 1945)
Original drawing in charcoal highlighted with white chalk on grey paper
Signed in brown ink "A. von Munchhausen" lower right
37.3 cm x 47.5 cm (image)
49.9 cm x 58.8 cm (framed)
Private Collection, UK
The image here is an original charcoal and white chalk drawing by August von Munchhausen (1908-1995). In 1971 a photographic reproduction of this work was issued as a print by the 'New York Graphic Society Ltd' under the title "Finale", noting on the publication line that the original work was held in a Private Collection.
August von Munchhausen was an American artist of German descent. For many years his work was entirely forgotten about, to the extent that he was thought by some to have been an amalgam of various artists working under a pseudonym. He was born in New York, attended Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn and then went on to study at The Art Students League of New York. He travelled to Europe for further studies, teaching in Paris before returning to his home city at the outbreak of WWII.
Munchhausen, known to his friends as 'Augie', was a very accomplished and skilful draughtsman. He frequently drew dancers in motion, often using charcoal, highlighted with white chalk, as evidenced here. He is known to have made numerous studies of dancers from the Ballet Russe de Monte-Carlo who based themselves in New York at the commencement of hostilities at the New York City Center of Music and Drama located at 131 West 55th Street (between Sixth & Seventh Avenues). Munchausen was also an accomplished pianist.
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts holds various ballet related drawings by August von Munchhausen including portrait drawings dated to the 1940's of the dancers Aleksandra Danilova (1903-1997), Irina Baronova (1919-2008), Paul Petroff (1906-1981) and Tamara Toumanova (1919-1996). The ballerina facing the viewer in the image here is possibly Maria Tallchief (1925-2013).
In 1977 Geneviere Oswald (1921–2019) the American dance scholar and founder of New York Public Library's dance archive said of the artist that "For over thirty years August von Munchhausen has been widely admired as one of the leading exponents of the spontaneous sketching of movement and dance". Various of his behind-the-scenes sketches and drawings made during ballet performances were illustrated in "S Hurok presents Col. W. de Basil's Ballets Russes de Monte-Carlo, 1937-1938 October-April, 5th American Season" New York, Nicolas Publishing Co. Inc. & Spotlite Publicity Features, 1937.
Good condition. A closed tear to the sheet bottom centre. Faint water mark centre left bottom. Some sketch lines visible to the background.
Beautifully presented in an archival quality mount and neutral grey frame.
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