Dance in Art | Hunter Museum of American Art 7.0.33-0+deb9u12


After viewing the works in Power, Passion & Pose: Photographs by Ken Browar and Deborah Ory, explore more examples of dancing in art with an exploration of the Hunter collection.



John Quidor

Peter Stuyvesant Watching the Festivities on the Battery (also known as “Dance on the Battery”) 

This large painting presents a scene from author Washington Irving’s 1809 book Knickerbocker’s History of New York. In the work, Irving romanticized the vision of colonial New York history, which can be seen in this painting. It illustrates afternoon dances on the battery lawn with “Anthony the Trumpeter” serving as master of ceremonies and “the good Peter” who “would smoke his pipe, crack his joke, and forget the rugged toils of war in the sweet oblivious festivities of peace.” While the dark canvas gives the painting a feeling of nighttime, you can still clearly see these two men and many dancers enjoying this imagined communal celebration.




Harriet Whitney Frishmuth

Crest of the Wave

Originally designed as a fountain, this work’s aquatic title fits both the original function of the piece and the pose of the model. Harriet Frishmuth was well known for bronze female nudes such as this one. She often used dancers as her models, and Desha Delteil (the model for this sculpture) was one of Frishmuth’s favorites. Delteil had a successful career in film and on the stage as a cabaret dancer, noted for her development of the “bubble dance.”



Reginald Marsh

(Gaiety) Burlesque (also known as Irving Place Burlesque)

“The burlesque show is a very sad commentary on the state of the poor man. It is the only entertainment he can afford. As for painting it, the whole thing is extremely pictorial. You get a woman in the spotlight, the gilt architecture of the place, plenty of humanity. Everything is nice and intimate, not spread out and remote as in a regular theater.”
— Reginald Marsh

Burlesque shows grew out of vaudeville, eventually becoming a bawdier attraction in the 1920s. By the time this painting was completed, they were known for being more tailored to a male audience with the inclusion of chorus girls and striptease acts. The shows were particularly prevalent in the Lower East Side of New York where Mayor LaGuardia led efforts to shut them down due to the seemingly risqué nature of the performances.




Harold Cash


Parisian dancers often served as models for sculptures and drawings by Chattanooga native Harold Cash. Simone d’A-Lal was one such dancer who inspired this sculpture and several of Cash’s drawings and sculptures on view in the East Wing in gallery 14. d’A-Lal, believed to be of Caribbean descent, was an 18-year old dancer and just beginning to appear in silent films when she first met Cash. Her posture and muscular form in this sculpture reflect her strength as a dancer.  


Red Grooms

Lindy Hop

Nashville native Red Grooms celebrates the Lindy Hop with his signature brightly colored, energetic design style. The Lindy Hop was made popular at the Savoy Ball Room in Harlem and was named after Charles Lindbergh’s legendary “hop” across the Atlantic Ocean. This piece is part of a series by Grooms celebrating popular early 20th century dance forms.




Tom Otterness

Free Money

Social commentary is embedded in public artist Tom Otterness’ work, which frequently focuses on economic inequities. While the figures in Free Money are technically dancing, this piece is less about their dance style and more about who they are and where they are dancing. Featured on a sack of clearly-marked money, their signature smiling faces could be reminiscent of an emoji or a Disney cartoon. Otterness frequently critiques wealthy Americans who have built their fortunes on the labor of others.

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