NEWS | Fri, 19 Mar 2021

Painting of Once Famous Dance Troupe?

Is this painting of 'Les Ballets Nègres', Europe's first black dance company?


Richard's early 1950s work Negro Ballet, known most recently to us as 'Negro Wedding', has been a bit of an enigma to us. How did he come to paint it? We think we may be on the way to finding out.

Negro Ballet (c1950)

Caroline Krzesinska's note to the picture in the catalogue for the huge Bradford 1979-80 exhibition, Richard Eurich RA - A Retrospective  Exhibition put us on the right track, "This was painted (date unknown) at the request of the Wildenstein Gallery who invited artists to send paintings on the theme of ballet." From here we managed to find the title of the Wildernstein exhibition - 'Scènes de Ballet'.

Knowing this then primed us to connect the picture more strongly with a 1951 Redfern Gallery showing of a work titled 'Negro Ballet'. Then almost by chance we came across a reference to 'Les Ballets Nègres', Europe's first all-black dance troupe that got an enthusiastic reception from the public right from their premiere in 1946 through the late 1940s until they had to fold in 1953 because they could not get any official subsidies. BBC TV featured them twice. They were popular. Richard could easily have known about them from press articles and photos.

Put all that together and we suspect that 'Les Ballets Nègres' may have been the inspiration for this work, perhaps through their piece 'De Bride Cry'? The painting looks like a theatre stage set more than a real wedding. We think that there is a good chance that 'Negro Wedding' and 'Negro Ballet' are the same work, so we have merged their provenance for this entry, and changed the name to the Redfern version Negro Ballet because it reflects the probable connection to the 'Les Ballets Nègres' and the title of the exhibition - 'Scènes de Ballet'. 

Does anyone know anything more about this work? Have we gone completely up the wrong path?

More details about 'Les Ballets Nègres' can be found here:

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