The Getty Center
Date: Sunday, February 2, 2014
Time: 3:00 p.m.
Location: Museum Lecture Hall
Past Event

When J. Paul Getty bought the small bronze Dancer statuette at a New York auction in 1933, the model, Countess Thamara Swirskaya (1890–1962), was then a renowned pianist and dancer who performed around the world, while the sculptor Paolo Troubetzkoy (1866–1938) was an internationally famous artist praised to be a true "interpreter of life." The discovery of the Countess's unpublished memoirs enabled Anne-Lise Desmas, acting department head of sculpture and decorative arts at the Getty Museum, to unfold the incredible story of her life in this richly illustrated lecture, which also features audio and video material.

Born in Russia but raised in Paris, Swirskaya had a fascinating career, meeting with composers Edvard Grieg, Erik Satie, and Igor Stravinsky and working with important choreographers such as Serge Oukrainsky and dancers such as Loïe Fuller and Anna Pavlova. Her incredibly rich social life led her to cross the paths of many of Europe's leading figures. She spent the last 20 years of her life in Los Angeles, performing as a pianist, and taking part in one of the first TV reality shows in 1959.

Her biography also sheds light on her friendship with sculptor Paolo Troubetzkoy. Italian by birth, Troubetzkoy traveled to Russia where he became the friend and portraitist of Leo Tolstoy, and to Paris, where he knew Auguste Rodin, and first met Thamara. His style, associated with Impressionism, was very successful for the immediacy and freshness in which he caught his models. Troubetzkoy won the competition to design the monument to General Harrison Gray Otis, unveiled in 1920 in Los Angeles's MacArthur Park. Other models included Rodin, George Bernard Shaw, Giacomo Puccini, and many other celebrities or aristocrats of the first decades of the 1900s.

Learn more about our Curator Spotlight series and see past events.

How to Get Here
The Getty Center is located at 1200 Getty Center Drive in Los Angeles, California, approximately 12 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. See Hours, Directions, Parking for maps and driving directions.