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The Sylphs (Les Sylphides)

A work made of gelatin silver print.

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  • A work made of gelatin silver print.




Alexey Brodovitch
American, born Russia, 1898–1971

About this artwork

Alexey Brodovitch, the pioneering art director of Harper’s Bazaar from 1934 to 1958, possessed an elegant, spare, and innovative design sensibility governed by intuition rather than grids and rules. This improvisational approach informed his only extended body of photographs, Ballet, which was published as a book in 1945. Shooting from the wings with a 35 mm camera, Brodovitch developed a visual style that broke with the conventions of both fine art photography and photojournalism. Rather than freeze the dancer’s movements with a flash, Brodovitch used only the available stage lighting. The blurs, lens flare, grain, and contrast of the resulting images echo in their spontaneity and vitality the dancers’ own leaps and dives. Printed to the edges, Brodovitch’s book heightened the dynamic flow of dance as one image seamlessly gave way to the next. The raw expressivity of Brodovitch’s work influenced photographers into the 1960s, many of whom—Richard Avedon, Robert Frank, and Diane Arbus, among others—worked for him at Harper’s Bazaar.


Currently Off View


Photography and Media


Alexey Brodovitch


The Sylphs (Les Sylphides)


United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

Made 1935–1937


Gelatin silver print


Unmarked recto; verso unchecked


Image/paper: 20.5 × 27.6 cm (8 1/8 × 10 7/8 in.)

Credit Line

Purchased with funds provided by Karen and Jim Frank

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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