Home > Art History, Book Recommendations, Uncategorized > Book Recommendation: Capturing Nureyev

Book Recommendation: Capturing Nureyev

Profile with Black Wash Background, Head, Nureyev (Study #23) by James Wyeth; 1977; combined Mediums; 20 3/4 x 21 1/4

Capturing Nureyev: James Wyeth Paints the Dancer [2002] pulls together a story of friendship, two different creative careers and their biographies.  The essays in the book offer recollections of Nureyev, details of his dance career, information about the history of dance photography and ideas about portraiture.  Phyllis Wyeth writes tenderly of their mutual friendship.  One passage in particular by Lauren Raye Smith was an art historical delight which is below verbatim:

While in New York, Wyeth was invited by his friend, pop artist Andy Warhol, to work in his Broadway studio known as “The Factory.” Wyeth and Warhol, who came from seemingly different backgrounds, completed portraits of each other in 1976 and exhibited together in a show called Portraits of Each Other that traveled from New York to Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Monoco. In the 1970s, Warhol was cultivating celebrities for his own portrait work and so, in 1977, he encouraged Wyeth to work on his portrait of Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Factory, too. It was at this time that Wyeth became reacquainted with Nureyev and the dancer finally agreed to pose, but not in the Factory. Warhol had photographed Nureyev a few years earlier during an unsuccessful interview for Interview magazine. Nureyev, even more than most celebrities, was extremely sensitive about his appearance and had torn up the Polaroids and refused to ever step foot in Warhol’s studio.

The studies from 1977 are the my favorite part of the whole book; they are so charged with energy and alive with expression.  The portraits created after Nureyev’s death are wrapped in both the love of a friend and grief at the loss.  Here is a short six minute documentary interview with James Wyeth about the Nureyev portraits and one or two studies shown in this video are not in the book:

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