Rick Guest’s stunningly beautiful photographs of Edward Watson vividly illustrate the impact on twenty-first century dance aesthetics of our renewed interest in the male body. On Friday night, in a conversation expertly chaired by dance critic Sarah Crompton as part of the National Portrait Gallery’s Friday Lates talks series, Guest described how he first came to photograph Watson as the result of a commission for The Economist’s Intelligent Life magazine. He was initially taken aback by how slight Watson seemed in rather flat light, then a sudden shaft illuminated Watson’s face, giving him the photograph he needed, and Watson the impetus to project his personality in response to the camera. (more…)

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The Laura Knight exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery includes four pictures of special interest to ballet fans.  Firstly, there are the two portraits of Barbara Bonner, one of which seems to be a study for the other, that was commissioned by Earl Hoover, who chose her to be the model.  Although the final portrait is “staged”, in that the dancer is shown with a dresser who was actually Knight’s dressmaker, it is interesting not only because the artist (or possibly the patron) has chosen to show the dancer backstage, but also because Bonner is presented as such a strong and meditative figure;  this is no wafer-thin dreamy sylph, but a muscular and thoughtful woman. (more…)