Scope and arrangement
The photographs of Jerome Robbins contain professional and personal photographs covering all aspects of his life and his works, ranging from his most of his ballets and theatrical productions to images of his friends and family.
The ballet photographs cover his career from Jerome Robbins’ early days as a performer in such shows as Three Virgins and a Devil, 1941, including portrait Carl Van Vechten prints in costume, through his early choreographic work with Ballet Theatre and then the New York City Ballet, with such ballets as Fancy Free, 1944, Facsimile, 1946, and The Cage, 1951, and Afternoon of a Faun, 1953. His work with New York City Ballet after the late sixties into the mid-seventies, during which time he was co-Ballet Master with George Balanchine, is extensively covered, particularly Dances at a Gathering, 1969, Goldberg Variations, 1971, and Watermill, 1972, the last two ballets of which are arranged photographically in the same order in which the ballet was performed. There are fewer photographs of the ballets that Robbins created in the 1980s for the New York City Ballet. The ballet company created by Robbins, Ballets: U.S.A., is well represented among the photographs and the images of all of its specific ballets are kept together.
The range of theatrical photographs begin approximately where Jerome Robbins’ theatrical career began with a one-line walk on in a play called The Brothers Ashkenazi, 1937. There are a few images also from his time at the Camps Kittatinny and Tamiment as a teenager and young man and his early work as a chorus dancer in Broadway shows. A noticeable absence in the collection is images of On the Town, 1944, his first great success as a theatrical choreographer. His early choreographic work on later shows is evident by rare, out-of-town, rehearsal photographs of somewhat variable photographic quality, but which are very important for documenting the creation of his work. Robbins’ major theatrical shows, Fiddler on the Roof, 1964, The King and I, 1951 (play) and 1956 (motion picture), and West Side Story, 1957 (play) and 1961 (motion picture), are well represented among the photographs. As is his work as a director of straight play in the early 1960s. Not found among the photographs are his work with the American Theatre Lab, Inc. or his various 1980s workshop productions of Poppa Piece, his autobiographical piece. His final show for the stage, Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, 1989 has a large series of rehearsal photographs including the celebration of Robbins’ 70th birthday.
The professional photographs also contain images of other ballet companies that have performed Robbins’ work, various tours and travels of Robbins, particularly in Europe in the 1950s, and galas and events including performances at various White House events and attendance at the Tony Awards. Included are two scrapbooks given to Robbins to celebrate evenings of his work, one given to Robbins’ by the New York City Ballet and the other by Opéra de Paris.
The personal photographs contain portraits and candid images of Jerome Robbins, family members, friends, and his residences. Robbins has had his portrait done by some significant portraitists over the years, including Richard Avedon and Yousuf Karsh, and they are both included in the collection of photographs. The family photographs date from the time the family lived in Russia through to Robbins’ sister, Sonia Cullinen, in the 1990s with her grandchildren and document many family gatherings over the years.
The Jerome Robbins photographs are arranged in three series:
- 1937-1994 and n.d.50 boxes
This series contains photographs covering Jerome Robbins’ professional life, both as a choreographer and/or director of theatrical productions and of ballets. It ranges from his earliest work as a dancer in the chorus of Broadway shows into the retrospectives of his work both on stage, in Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, 1989, and the New York City Ballet’s Festival of Jerome Robbins’ Ballets, 1990. The ballet company he himself set up, Ballets: U.S.A., is represented in sub-series 3, Companies. Robbins’ professional travels all across Europe and later China, 1981, are documented.
- ca. 1900s-1990s8 boxes
This series contains photographs representing Jerome Robbins’ personal and family life. Portraits shows images of Robbins ranging from his very earliest childhood and ending in the 1990s, ranging from professional photographers taking studio images to friends and family taking a photograph in a more relaxed atmosphere. His family is represented from images that range from his relatives in Russian in the 1890s to his sister, Sonia, and her grandchildren in the 1990s. The images of his friends are a mix of the personal and the professional and cover all aspects of his life. Robbins’ homes, particularly those on Long Island, are well represented and include photographs of his friends at his various residences.
- ca. 1920s-1994 and n.d.17 boxes
This series consists of oversize photographs pulled from the various series of professional and personal photographs and span Jerome Robbins’ personal and professional life in the same manner.