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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 756

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This is the grave of Andre Delfau.

Born in Paris in 1914, Delfau is not super well known today, but he became a leading costume and set designer by the late 1930s. He started his work by creating fashion designs for leading Parisian firms such as Balmain, Jean Patou and Balenciaga. That work led him into stage design and he became perhaps the most important European designer of big stage productions of his day. Among his commissions was with the Royal Ballet of Great Britain, the Paris Opera, and the Royal Danish Ballet. He also started working in the United States in 1946, including with the Dance Theater of Harlem and the Civic Ballet of Chicago. He was publishing his work in Vogue and that is what got him to the U.S. for the first time in 1946, which was really before he went into stage design. He also started working with the dancer Ruth Page and her International Ballet. Delfau and Page fell in love and married in 1983. Both continued working as major players in the world of dance and opera for a few years more, even as they aged. One of Delfau’s later works was the elaborate stage design for the PBS production of Die Fledermaus. Page choreographed this. This seems to be at least part of it.

Delfau was also a interesting painter who was heavily influenced by Surrealism and Cubism. His work focused heavily on dance scenes as well as exotic tropical paintings. He also painted a lot of scenes in Morocco, which was his favorite place in the world and his usual vacation spot. Here’s a couple of examples of his work:

Landscapes and Rooftops, c. 1948
Moroccan Scene
View of Central Park, 1950s

Delfau died in Chicago in 2000.

Delfau is surprisingly little known today. Most of this information was gleaned off of art gallery websites that are pretty limited. Given the number of people with Wikipedia pages (heck, even I have one in German!), it’s kind of amazing that he doesn’t. There is an interview with him at the Chicago Film Archives, which has also been transcribed. It provides a bit more context. Anyway, stage design is pretty far outside of my area of expertise, but I am sure that some of you have a lot of knowledge here, so let’s leave it to the comments.

Andre Delfau is buried in Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois.

If you would like this series to visit other figures in the world of dance and theater (and given my complete ignorance on the subject, why would you?), you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Boris Aronson, who won the Tony for Best Scenic Design in 1951, 1967, 1971, and 1976 is in Nyack, New York and Raoul Pene Du Bois, who won the same Tony in 1953 as well as a Costume Design Tony in 1971, is in Brooklyn. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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