chalk, ink and gouache c. 1960

Just as Degas had studied the ballet dancers from the wings and in the classrooms of the Palais Garnier in Paris in the nineteenth century, Isabel Rawsthorne depicted performers from the Royal Ballet in London. Between around 1952 to 1969, Rawsthorne focussed on chalk/ink/gouache compositions and a number of oils, of the corps de ballet and the leading dancers of the time, Fonteyn, Nureyev, Somes, Sibley and Beriosova. Hundreds of sketches from the rehearsal rooms in Hammersmith still survive and this prolific period of Rawsthorne’s work – her ‘moving portraits’ – and the simple lines of Study of a Ballet Dancer, not only project the grace and poise of the form, but also remind us of the determination and strength required – note the extremely flexed calf muscle in the dancer’s left leg. The subject matter is also intensely personal to Rawsthorne as she was married to the composer and music director of the Royal Ballet, Constant Lambert. Their four-year marriage ended in 1951 with Lambert’s death, just two days short of his 46th birthday.

Presented by Mrs Isabel Rawsthorne

This work will feature, alongside 10 new acquisitions and a series of loans, at The Fry Gallery’s exhibition – The Many Sides of Isabel Rawsthorne – from April 2022.