Jean Stewart 1921-2017

Jean Stewart (1921–2017)

Jean Stewart, esteemed dance photographer, has died in Melbourne aged 95. Jean was a radiographer by profession but had studied photography at RMIT. Ballet was her passion and she created an amazing archive of photographs of Australian companies in the 1940s and 1950s, especially of the Borovansky Ballet and Laurel Martyn’s Ballet Guild. She also photographed Ballet Rambert during its momentous tour to Australia 1947–1949. Later she took casual shots of dancers in social rather than performance settings.

Her work is currently represented in various libraries and performing arts collections around Australia. Her material is of inestimable value to those who take an interest in our balletic heritage.

I first met Jean in 1996 when I was curating a National Library exhibition, Dance people, dance. I used a number of her photographs in that exhibition and since then have used her work in various of my publications, more recently in my biography of Dame Margaret Scott, Dame Maggie Scott. A life in dance. I greatly appreciated Jean’s generosity in giving permission for her work to be used.

Above is a random selection of her photographs. With the exception of the photograph of Gailene Stock and Gary Norman, all are from the collection of the National Library of Australia

Jean Stewart: Born Melbourne, 31 October 1921. Died Melbourne, 18 August 2017.

Gallery: (top row) Walter Gore in The Fugitive, Ballet Rambert, c. 1948; Martin Rubinstein in Le beau Danube, Borovansky Ballet, c. 1946; Eric Brown in The Sentimental Bloke, Ballet Guild, 1952. (middle row) Edouard Borovansky in Le Carnaval, Borovansky Ballet, c. 1944; Janet Karin and Ray Trickett in Voyageur, Ballet Guild, 1957; Gailene Stock and Gary Norman, Melbourne, 2012. (bottom row) Peggy Sager and Martin Rubinstein in Terra Australis, Borovansky Ballet, 1946; Laurel Martyn in Coppélia, Ballet Guild, 1952; Joyce Graeme in Peter and the Wolf, Ballet Rambert Australian tour, 1948.

Michelle Potter, 21 August 2017

6 thoughts on “Jean Stewart (1921–2017)

  1. My partner Maxwell Cleaveley now aged 91 was saddened to learn of the death of Jean Stewart he was an original member of the Ballet Guild of Victoria and danced in the original production 0f The Sentimental Bloke staged and danced by Laurel Martyn and other members of the Guild. I have the original photographs taken by Jean of this ballet and also a few of Laurel’s production of Le Carnaval where Max danced the character of the Old Man in a top hat. Also in the collection which I scanned into our computer are wonderful photographs of another ballet produced around the same time called “Le Cirque” > If you are interested I can forward copies to you. Best wishes Frank Saunders and Maxwell Cleaveley

  2. Thank you Frank. I would be very interested to have scans of your photos. Thank you for the offer. I have seen photos of Le Cirque and others of The Sentimental Bloke (other than the one I posted) and all are terrific shots. Jean had a good eye I think. I look forward to seeing what you are able to send.

  3. Good evening Michelle,
    I will send you the file of photos I have in the next few days please send your email details to me at my email address shown below.

    Best wishes Frank

  4. I was sad to hear of the not unexpected death of Jean last Friday. She was a determined lady and had found it hard to have to give up the home she had lived in all her life. Jean was a generous friend to Rambert. In the 1980s a volunteer in the then recently established Rambert Archive was going to Australia for a few months and set herself the task of learning more about Rambert’s 1947-49 visit. She met and was befriended by Jean. On her return she passed contacts on to me so that when I visited Australia during Rambert’s second tour there, and met Jean in person, it was like catching up with an old friend. I returned to the UK with hundreds of photographs documenting the first tour, cuttings books and other ephemera Jean wanted us to have. She also granted Rambert the right to reproduce any of the photographs of their dancers and productions for their own needs. I thought it would be interesting for you to know Jean’s work does have international recognition and her generosity was considerable. May she rest in peace.
    Oh and the photograph of Walter Gore shows him in the title role of the dramatic ballet by Andree Howard, The Fugitive.

  5. Thank you, Jane, for passing on your thoughts about, and memories of Jean. You are right, too, that her death was not unexpected. I think she was very frustrated by the situation she found herself in in the last period of her life. You will also know that I visited the Rambert Archives in their spectacular new premises in 2014 while researching my biography of Maggie Scott, and was indeed impressed by the extent of Jean’s generosity to the organisation.

    Extra thanks, too, for further identifying the Walter Gore image. I will pass on the information to the relevant area at the National Library of Australia and expect that, in due course, they will add the information to the catalogue. It is a very dramatic shot and I was wondering about its origins.

  6. Good afternoon Michelle I have endeavoured to send the photos I promised however they have been unable to be delivered to the email address you kindly sent I will try again and forward the file in three different lots.

    Best wishes frank Saunders

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