Wall Hanging, oil paint and linen (hand-finished fabric print) 223 x 93.5 cms
Inscription l.l. To Helene Kirsova/Melb Australia, Signed l.r. ‘L. SAINTHILL
Exhibited at the Melbourne Exhibition of portraits, decore (sic) and costume design of designer Birger Bartholin, organised by Henry Tatlock Miller, held in the foyer of His Majesty’s Theatre . Sainthill showed two fabric designs, Petrouchka and La Ballerine. The Arts and Crafts Society, October 1937, Fabrics Designs section.
The Melbourne ballet was opened by Helene Kirsova on 29 June, 1937 (see Fantasy Modern, Loudon Sainthill’s Theatre of art and Life, by Andrew Montana, p45). A review by Burdett for the Herald noted the ballet designs ‘printed on linen’ by Loudon Sainthill had been exhibited in the theatre (Her Majesty’s Theatre). ‘This was the start of [Henry Tatlock] Miller’s lifelong promotion of his romantic partner and his fantasy art.’ (Montana p45). Sainthill’s first fabric designs were inspired by Alexandre Benois’s designs for Stravinsky’s Petrouchka, which premiered during the first tour to Melbourne in November 1936. Sainthill was drawn to Benois’s animated designs, strong paint-box colours and large stylised shapes that playfully depicted a circus scenario and toy-like characters. He captured Benois’s spirit in his decoratively coloured block printed fabrics, worked from linocuts. The Bartholin catalogue advertised that Sainthill would print lengths of cloth to order (Montana, p46). The Petrouchka. The Argus reported about the Petrouchka hanging: Amusing ingenuity is revealed by two new exhibitors- Messrs L Saint Hill and John Seymour- who are showing hand-blocked fabrics. Figures from the Russian ballet Petroushka (sic) adorn one fantastic material etc. The Age on 7 September 1937 at page 6 reported: In addition to the usual exhibitors, the Young Designer Lowdon (sic) Sainthill, whose designs attracted attention at the Russian Ballet, is showing some of his hangings.
The Ballet, Petrouchka (from Wikipedia): Petrouchka is a ballet burlesque in four scenes. It was composed in 1910–11 and revised in 1947. Igor Stravinsky composed the music, and, with Alexandre Benois, fashioned the libretto. Michel Fokine choreographed the ballet; Benois designed the sets and costumes. Petrouchka was first performed by Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris on 13 June 1911. Vaslav Nijinsky portrayed Petrouchka with Tamara Karsavina as the Ballerina. Alexander Orlov portrayed the Moor, and Enrico Cecchetti the Charlatan. Petrouchka tells the story of the loves and jealousies of three puppets. The three are brought to life by the Charlatan during the 1830 Shrovetide Fair (Maslenitsa) in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Petrouchka loves the Ballerina, but she rejects him. She prefers the Moor. Petrouchka is angry and hurt, and challenges the Moor. The Moor kills him with his scimitar. Petrouchka ghost rises above the puppet theatre as night falls. He shakes his fist at the Charlatan, then collapses in a second death. On the Australian tour, Kirsova danced the leading role, the Doll.
Australian Dictionary of Biography entry for Sainthill’s early career, By Sally O’Neill: Loudon Sainthill (1918-1969), artist and stage designer, was born on 9 January 1918 in Hobart, second of four children of Tasmanian-born parents Willoughby Aveland St Hill, a clerk who became a commission agent, and his wife Honora Matilda, née Horder. By 1920 the family was living in Melbourne, first at Toorak and then at East St Kilda. A delicate, nervous child, with a stammer that persisted into adulthood (except when talking to children), Loudon contrived to avoid much formal schooling, though he did attend Ripponlea State School for a while. He read widely, painted and drew, and found his way into theatres and concert halls, where he saw Pavlova, heard (Dame) Nellie Melba, and absorbed performances of Ibsen and Chekhov. In 1932-33 he studied drawing and general design at the Applied Art School, Working Men's College. At his father's insistence he worked as a designer for a sandblasting firm in South Melbourne. By 1935 Sainthill, as he thenceforward spelt his name, was living in a flat at 24 Collins Street and eking out a living by painting murals in a surrealist style reminiscent of Alcimboldo. About this time he met his lifelong partner Harry Karl Tatlock Miller (1913-1989)—a journalist and later an art critic and expert on paintings and antiques—whose connexions and organizing ability were to complement Sainthill's creative talents. Sainthill's interest in theatre design was fired by the Australian tours (1936-37 and 1938-39) of Colonel de Basil's Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo. An exhibition of his paintings of the dancers and sets led to an invitation to return to London with the company. He and Miller left Sydney in May 1939. During the voyage he painted the dancers and choreographers. In London (Sir) Rex Nan Kivell organized an exhibition of these studies at the Redfern Gallery, Bond Street, where Sainthill sold fifty of the fifty-two pictures on show. Late that year he and Miller returned to Australia in charge of a major exhibition of theatre and ballet designs, brought together under the auspices of the British Council. It opened in Sydney in February 1940. (See also Australian Dictionary of Biography entry on Hélène Kirsova by Sally O'Neill and Martha Rutledge).
Select Bibliography § P. Bellew, Pioneering Ballet in Australia (Syd, 1946) § F. Salter, Borovansky (Syd, 1980) § E. H. Pask, Ballet in Australia (Melb, 1982)§ Table Talk, 5, 12, 19, 26 Nov, 3, 10, 17 Dec 1936 § Argus (Melbourne), 24 June 1937, 29 Jan 1942 § Sydney Morning Herald, 8 Jan, 11 Feb, 17 Mar, 18 Aug 1938, 20 May 1940, 9 July 1941, 3 Jan, 20 June 1942, 20 Sept 1943, 13 Jan 1952, 28 Mar 1957, 25 Feb 1962 § Herald (Melbourne), 17 Jan 1938 § M. Gordon, interview with Paul Hammond (transcript, 1989, National Library of Australia)