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As a painter Stowitts was completely self-taught and discovered his gifts with palette and brush from necessity during the Pavlova company tours of South America, 1917-1919. Traveling by ship and railroad cars the troupe became separated from their costumes and scenery on many occasions, especially in remote regions of the Andes. Stowitts amazed the Russians with his American ingenuity, rising at dawn and combing the markets for materials and dyes. Improvising with these raw materials, he was excused from Pavlova's daily class to create emergency costumes and paint backdrops.

Many members of the troupe asked for portraits, which he shyly refused to paint. However, when Pavlova requested a formal portrait on the eve of their Buenos Aires season he could hardly refuse his mentor. The painting was so successful it was published throughout South America.

His star was clearly rising and Pavlova rewarded her young American by producing three new ballets in his honor. The first of these was called "Syrian," using the Bacchanal from Saint-Saens' "Samson and Delilah". Entrusted with the costume designs for the new ballet, Stowitts created costumes especially suited for the dancers' physiques. Pavlova's ballet master, Ivan Clustine, determined the choreography.

At the first rehearsal, to the chagrin of Stowitts, the dancers were brought on stage to choreography Fokine had created earlier for a quiet scene in "Scheherazade." Stowitts did the unthinkable and registered a protest, creating the first of many scandals during his tenure in the Russian company. He knew Fokine's choreography was too delicate for the lusty music and virile atmosphere his ballet demanded.

Secretly he devised his own original choreography. At the world premier, Stowitts shot onto the stage like cannon fire. He soared over and through and around the other dancers, then found his mark on stage to await the arrival of Pavlova. She burst out from the wings with "sparkling eyes" and Stowitts immediately sensed her cooperation with his revolutionary revision. The new ballet was a triumph.

Despite management's demand that Stowitts be fired for such audacity, Pavlova commissioned new ballets by her prodigy, including "La Peri." Written history of dance in this century will remain woefully incomplete until modern dance historians acknowledge Stowitts' contributions to the golden age of dance, and Pavlova in particular. As we approach the new millenium, the shackles of homophobia which imprisoned the Stowitts legacy can be expunged and Stowitts given his rightful place beside America's other great dance pioneers.

The lovely star of Diaghilev's Ballet Russe, Ida Rubinstein, had long admired Stowitts and asked him to design costumes and sets for a new ballet she planned to present in Paris in 1924. The production was canceled but his drawings and paintings represented his first commission independent of Pavlova.

His friend, admirer and patron, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, persuaded him to bring the designs to New York. She arranged an exhibition at the prestigious Knoedler Galleries: the paintings sold within a few days and Stowitts donated his profits to charity. Finding aspects of art sales degrading, it was the first and last time Stowitts would participate in a commercial exhibition.

He sailed home to Paris where he prepared for his starring season with the Folies Bergère. Encouraged by his friend, surrealist Man Ray, Stowitts investigated avant-garde color printing techniques. He planned to finance an edition of Diachromie Lithographs using original paintings of full figure nudes. He called the collection "The Fall of the Angels" and after completing a portrait of Serge Lifar, Diaghilev's newest star and lover, Stowitts painted his own self-portrait.

But the cost of reproductions proved too great despite his star's income from the Folies season. When approached to collaborate with composer Joseph Redding and librettist Templeton Crocker, Stowitts would finally realize his dream of seeing his designs for the opera Fay Yen Fah produced in the rich Diachromie process.

Ever eager for novelty, he spent the summer making his first feature film, playing the Satyr in "The Magician." With income from the opera and movie, this intrepid young man fulfilled his dream of exploring the mysteries of the Orient. Turning his back on fame and fortune, Stowitts packed trunks with fine French canvas, brushes and his collection of natural dyes, and set sail for Bali.

Armed with letters of introduction from Dutch officials, Stowitts spent a year in the courts of the native rulers of Java where he painted by day and studied native dance at night. A year later he sailed for India where he would live and work over the next several years and complete an astonishing collection of 155 paintings he entitled Vanishing India.

--Anne Holliday

"L'Apres-midi d'un Faune"
Vaslav Nijinsky in his most famous role.
Tempera on reverse Masonite, 72" x 48"

Nijinsky as the Golden Slave
and Ida Rubinstein as Queen.
Tempera on reverse Masonite
48" x 72"
"La Peri"
Buenos Aires version, 1919
starring Stowitts and Pavlova.
Tempera on reverse Masonite
48" x 72"

"Radha" by Ruth St. Denis.
Tempera on reverse Masonite, 48" x 72"
Private Collection, Bellevue, WA

"Bearer of the Ceremonial Trunk"
from the opera Fay Yen Fah, Paris,
1926-27. Diachromie Lithograph.
"Bearer of the Ceremonial Fan"
from the opera Fay Yen Fah, Paris,
1926-27. Diachromie Lithograph.

"The Maharajah of Panna" 1929
from Vanishing India.
Tempera on canvas, 40" x 50"
Courtesy of Cunningham Gallery

"The Tiller of the Soil", Jaipur 1930
from Vanishing India.
Tempera on canvas, 40" x 50"
Courtesy of Mr. Colby Homan

"Prince Suwarno in Mahabarata role", 1928
from Royal Theater Arts of Java.
Tempera and gold leaf on canvas, 28" x 30"
Copyright 1998. All rights reserved by Anne Holliday and The Stowitts Museum and Library.
Paintings courtesy of The Stowitts Museum and Library unless otherwise noted.