It all started with this those three girls on a rock in 1922, putting my beach snaps to shame. Why is it, that with all the technology we have at our disposal to document every moment of our holidays, most of our summer photos end up looking so, well … uncreative? Photography of the 1920s was characterized by passionate experimentation that intertwined with an array of artistic styles, including Cubism and surrealism. Today we’re looking at #HotdogLegs and bottom-flossing bikini selfies – is that really the best this insta-photo generation can do? It wasn’t long into my absent-minded googling of “vintage beach photos” that I came across the real-life nymphs of and merry mermaids of Miss Margaret Morris. And suddenly, our summer photo goals come into focus…
I first realised the absolute necessity of relating movement with form and colour when studying painting of the modern movement in Paris in 1913. From that time I incorporated it as one of the main studies in my school.Margaret Morris
It should come as no surprise that Margaret Morris looked to art and the avant garde for inspiration. A bohemian in spirit, she was a dancer from London who won acclaim from the press as the first woman ‘actor, manager’ at 21. She was the first to advocate Isadora Duncan’s style in Britain and opened her own school at the age of 22. With her husband, Morris founded an arts club in Chelsea, attended regularly by Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis, Vogue editors and the like. In summer, she hung out with Picasso, Fitzgerald and Hemingway, while running her summer dance school on the French riviera throughout the 1920s.
This was a time when the Cote d’Azur wasn’t yet saturated by tourism. Hotels actually had trouble filling their rooms and one hotelier, Antoine Sella, of the Hôtel du Cap, was looking to attract customers. As descri bed by Richard Emerson in his book about Morris and her band of dancers, Rhythm & Colour, Sella spotted the girls dancing at a nearby villa and invited them to the hotel for a photo shoot. Photographer Fred Daniels captured the dancers in various nymph-like scenes around the hotel grounds and the images were sold to fashion magazines around the world.
Morris had created a movement – the Margaret Morris Movement – which made painting and design an integral part of her dance students curriculum.
The syllabus at her schools included the following:
- The Margaret Morris method of physical culture and dancing
- Dance composition
- Theory of movement: Breathing
- Theory of practice of teaching
- Paining, design and sculpture
- Notation of movement
- Property and mask making
- Music training
- Class singing
- Musical composition
- Literature; study of words; writing of plays and poems; essays
- Diction and acting
- Lecturing and discussion
- Stage management, including lighting
- Production of play and ballets
- General organisation and business management
- Ballroom dancing
So with just a few short weeks left in summer, make the most of your vacation by taking a page out of Margaret Morris’ book. Grab a few nimble friends, pick a painting to imitate, strike a pose and let’s bring back the glamour of summer photos.