The Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida
Anna Pavlova, born in St. Petersburg, Russia, 1881, rose from her impoverished beginnings as the daughter of a laundress and a peasant to become the greatest ballerina of the first third of the 20th century. Despite frail health, she was accepted into the Imperial School of Ballet in 1891 and quickly distinguished herself both artistically and academically. While still a student, she appeared on stage at the Maryinsky Theatre and was accepted into this company upon her graduation in 1899. She remained with the Maryinsky for ten years. In 1907, Pavolva was granted the first of several leaves of absence to appear throughout Europe. In April of 1910, Anna Pavlova made her London debut at the Palace Theatre dancing the role of a Bacchante in the ballet Bacchanale. This painting, probably painted in the same year, recalls this triumphant debut. Sir John Lavery was one of the preeminent portrait painters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He studied in Paris with Bouguereau, and like John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), who was also working in London, he tended toward a more informal, less posed type of portraiture. Anna Pavlova favored traditionalism in all aspects of ballet. Her importance is not found in the revolutionary reappraisal of the art form taking place during her life. Though she was considered by her contemporaries the greatest ballerina of her generation, her true legacy is that she traveled throughout the world bringing the art of ballet to many who had never experienced it. It is estimated she traveled some 500,000 miles and gave thousands of performances revealing her art to millions.