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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, c. 1937

Max Dupain

gelatin silver photograph on paper (image/sheet: 49.0 cm x 39.5 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.

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 not on display

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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)

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.

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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.