Sonia the Dancer

La danseuse Sonia

Sonia Gaskell (1904-1974) was a Lithuanian choreographer and dancer. She became passionate about classical ballet while in Paris. In 1939, she moved to Amsterdam. She went on to play an important role in encouraging dance in the Netherlands. She set up the first national ballet company in her adopted country.
Derain had done a lot of work for the stage, producing sets and costumes for the theatre and the ballet. He worked mainly with Diaghilev (1872-1929) and the Ballets Russes on The Magic Toyshop, and with Leonid Massine (1896-1979).
Around 1927, Derain produced a series of paintings and photographs of two dancers in long tutus. The photographs were not used as the starting point for the paintings. The poses are different. The rather ill-defined background is identical in both series. Is it a theatre or the painter’s studio?
Here, Sonia is depicted alone and resting, looking a little tired. In Paul Guillaume’s home, this painting had a pendant with the two dancers performing a dance movement.

Provenance: Paul Guillaume en 1929; Domenica Walter