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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Hélène Kirsova in Petrouchka, 1936-37

Max Dupain

gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 30.3 cm x 25.2 cm, image: 28.7 cm x 22.9 cm)

Hélène Kirsova (1910-1962), dancer, was born Ellen Wittrup Hansen in Copenhagen. She trained in Paris, toured with various companies in South America and danced in Paris and London before becoming a founding member of the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo in 1932. In 1936 she came to Australia as a leading artist with the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet, sparkling in Petrouchka and Le Carnaval. She returned to England in 1937 but came back to Sydney early in 1938 to marry. In 1940 she began a ballet school in Sydney, and the following year she established the Kirsova Ballet, Australia's first professional ballet company. She was an important patron of Australian artists, composers and set designers, and took on some youngsters such as Peggy Sager who would later enjoy significant local careers. The Kirsova Ballet folded in 1944, but Kirsova kept her school running until she retired to Europe in the late 1940s.

This photograph by Dupain appeared in the Home of February 1938, accompanying the announcement of Kirsova's marriage to Eric Fischer. The event itself was captured by Dr Ewan Murray-Will on 16mm film, now in the collection of ScreenSound Australia.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Rex Dupain 2003
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program

Accession number: 2003.79

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Max Dupain (age 25 in 1936)

Hélène Kirsova (age 26 in 1936)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Donated by

Rex Dupain (15 portraits)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Sydney Ure Smith, 1948 Max Dupain
Sydney Ure Smith, 1948 Max Dupain
Sydney Ure Smith, 1948 Max Dupain
Sydney Ure Smith, 1948 Max Dupain

Dupain detective

Magazine article by Johanna McMahon, 2019

Johanna McMahon revels in history and mystery in pursuit of a suite of unknown portrait subjects.

Hélène Kirsova in Petrouchka, 1936-37 Max Dupain
Hélène Kirsova in Petrouchka, 1936-37 Max Dupain
Hélène Kirsova in Petrouchka, 1936-37 Max Dupain
Hélène Kirsova in Petrouchka, 1936-37 Max Dupain

Vintage Max

Magazine article by Gael Newton, 2003

Gael Newton delves into the life and art of renowned Australian photographer, Max Dupain.

Portrait of Professor Graeme Clark, 2000 Peter Wegner
Portrait of Professor Graeme Clark, 2000 Peter Wegner
Portrait of Professor Graeme Clark, 2000 Peter Wegner
Portrait of Professor Graeme Clark, 2000 Peter Wegner

Portraits for Posterity

Previous exhibition, 2006

Drawn from some of the many donations made to the Gallery's collection, the exhibition Portraits for Posterity pays homage both to the remarkable (and varied) group of Australians who are portrayed in the portraits and the generosity of the many donors who have presented them to the Gallery.

We would like to thank our partners.
© National Portrait Gallery 2020
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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.