Karl Free. Captain John Smith. Costume design for the ballet Pocahontas. c. 1936

Karl Free Captain John Smith. Costume design for the ballet Pocahontas c. 1936

  • Not on view

Featuring squash headpieces and bird-feather briefs, Karl Free’s designs for the ballet Pocahontas rely on the problematic trope of representing Native Americans through their connection to nature. Even at the time, a review of the ballet criticized the cartoonish effect of the costumes as being “in the manner of the old-fashioned cigar box Indian.” Later, the ballet’s composer Elliott Carter reflected: “I myself had misgivings about the ‘colonialist’ aspect of the subject . . . but
hoped to make it a parable of cooperation.”

Gallery label from Lincoln Kirstein’s Modern, March 17 – June 15, 2019.
Medium
Tempera and metallic tempera on paper-faced board
Dimensions
14 1/2 x 9 3/4" (36.8 x 24.8 cm)
Credit
Gift of the artist
Object number
508.1941.14
Associated work
Costume designs for the ballet Pocahontas
Department
Drawings and Prints

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