In 2019, Sir Frederick Ashton and Carmen de Lavallade were inducted into the Museum’s Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame. With each induction, the Museum creates exhibitions honoring the Hall of Fame’s newest members. Iain Webb, Director of The Sarasota Ballet, generously loaned several important objects for A Tribute Sir Frederick Ashton, including an original costume design by Cecil Beaton.
Celebrated British fashion and society photographer, illustrator, and designer Cecil Beaton held a lifelong fascination with ballet and collaborated with choreographer Frederick Ashton on six ballets between the 1930s and the 1960s. For The Royal Ballet, Beaton designed sets and costumes for Ashton’s Apparitions (1936, then Vic-Wells Ballet), Les Sirenes (1946), and Marguerite and Armand (1963). He created scenery and costumes for Ashton’s two commissioned works for New York City Ballet, Illuminations (1950) and Picnic at Tintagel (1952), as well as Ashton’s Casse Noisette (Nutcracker) for Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet in 1951.
The original Cecil Beaton costume design on loan to the Museum from Iain Webb is for Margot Fonteyn’s role as the Woman in Ball Dress in Apparitions. It notably represents one of Beaton’s first forays in designing for ballet, his first collaboration with Frederick Ashton in 1936, and the beginning of a highly consequential artistic partnership. Considered one of Ashton’s early masterworks, Beaton revised his original scenery and costumes for Apparitions in 1952 for Sadler’s Wells Ballet. It was first performed in the United States by The Sarasota Ballet. A Sadler’s Wells Ballet 1949-50 season program, the cover of which was designed by Cecil Beaton in his signature, vibrant style using ink, watercolor, and gouache is also on view in A Tribute to Sir Frederick Ashton.
In addition to his work with Ashton, Cecil Beaton designed costumes in the 1930s for Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and photographed many of its dancers. He designed four operas for the Metropolitan Opera in New York, several Broadway productions for which he won four Tony awards for Best Costume Design (Quadrille, My Fair Lady, Saratoga, and Coco), and numerous films earning him three Academy awards for both costume design and art direction (Gigi and My Fair Lady).
A Tribute to Sir Frederick Ashton will be on view when the National Museum of Dance reopens. Please check the Museum website for updates.