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The National Portrait Gallery of Australia (NPGA) 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.

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

Hélène Kirsova, c.1937

Max Dupain

gelatin silver photograph (image/sheet: 49.0 cm x 39.5 cm)

Hélène Kirsova (1910-1962), dancer, was born Ellen Wittrup Hansen in Copenhagen. She trained as a dancer 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 dancer with the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet, turning in sparkling performances in Petrouchka and Le Carnaval. She returned to England in 1937 at the end of the tour but returned to Sydney early in 1938 to marry the Danish Vice-Consul in Sydney, Erik Fischer. (The photograph of Kirsova with a rope appeared in the Home with the notice of the marriage.) In 1940 she began a ballet school in Sydney, and the following year she established the Kirsova Ballet, the first professional ballet company in Australia. She employed several dancers who had stayed in Australia following one or other of the Ballets Russes tours to Australia, including Tamara Tchinarova, and took on some young Australian dancers who would later have significant careers in Australia including Rachel Cameron, Strelsa Heckelman, Paul Hammond and Peggy Sager. Kirsova was an important patron of Australian artists, composers and set designers, commissioning designs for her original ballets from artists such as Loudon Sainthill, Amie Kingston, Alice Danciger and Wolfgang Cardamatis. The Kirsova Ballet folded in 1944, but Kirsova kept her school running until she retired to Europe in the late 1940s.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Danina Anderson, daughter of Max Dupain 2018
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program

Accession number: 2018.72

Currently on display: Gallery Five (John Schaeffer Gallery)

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Artist and subject

Max Dupain (age 26 in 1937)

Hélène Kirsova (age 27 in 1937)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Donated by

Danina Anderson (34 portraits)

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Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia


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The National Portrait Gallery of Australia (NPGA) 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.

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