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Lincoln Kirstein

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Lincoln Kirstein by Paul Cadmus, 1957


Writer, critic, arts patron, co-founder of the New York City Ballet, and indefatigable champion of the choreographer George Balanchine, Lincoln Kirstein (1907-1996) was a towering figure in the history of American ballet. Born in Rochester, New York, he was a Harvard graduate, the founder of the literary review Hound and Horn, co-founder of the Harvard Society for Contemporary Art, and a member of the junior advisory committee of the Museum of Modern Art, where he curated several major exhibitions, found a friend and patron in Nelson Rockefeller, and identified himself with the emerging avant-garde. In 1933 he brought George Balanchine to New York, where they founded the School of American Ballet in 1934 and, after several short-lived companies, the New York City Ballet in 1948. Both would benefit from his largesse, loyalty, and connections. As managing director of City Center in the early 1950s he tapped the Rockefeller Foundation for its first major grant to ballet. Later, he persuaded the Ford Foundation to underwrite the scholarship program that transformed the School of American Ballet into a truly national institution. Another of the recipients of his generosity was the Dance Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. nycballet.com/nycb/home

Pictured right: A portrait of Lincoln Kirstein by Paul Cadmus, 1957. In addition to his love of dance, Kirstein was a collector, supporter, and critic of the visual arts. He wrote a monograph devoted to his friend Paul Cadmus, whose sister Fidelma was Kirstein's wife.

George Balanchine conferring with Lincoln Kirstein





Pictured left: George Balanchine conferring with Lincoln Kirstein, who invited him to co-found a new American ballet company after seeing his choreography in Europe. 



Essay by Lynn Garafola -- Selected Resources