Rolf de Maré

Posted on October 5, 2010

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Rolf de Maré and Jean Börlin

Rolf de Maré and Jean Börlin

The scion of a Swedish family that made a fortune in logging (his eccentric grandmother’s house is a famous and eclectic museum in Stockholm, the Hallwylska), Rolf de Maré was a collector and patron whose choices of art and dance were based on his choices in men.

When he was 25, he met post-impressionist painter Nils Dardel, commencing on a six-year relationship in which he amassed a substantial art collection that included pieces by Picasso, Braque and Léger – as well as by Dardel. The next lover of de Maré’s was Swedish dancer Jean Börlin, a protegé of Michel Fokine’s from the Royal Swedish Ballet. De Maré and Börlin moved to Paris, where de Maré created the Ballets Suédois around Börlin, a company that during its brief life, 1920-25, rivaled Dhiagilev’s Ballets Russes and was more avant garde. Among the ballets it debuted are Relâche with music by Erik Satie and staging by Francis Picabia – a film was commissioned of René Clair to be shown between the acts, called Entre’acte (it’s on Youtube in two parts, here and here.)

Although he dissolved the Ballets Suédois after five years, he continued to operate the Ballet’s home theater, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, as a venue for modern music and jazz – Josephine Baker launched her Paris debut there in 1925.

After Börlin died in 1930, de Maré founded the Archive Internationale de la Danse in 1931, the world’s first dance museum. After the war, the collection being too large to maintain, part of it went to the Paris Opera and the rest went to Stockholm, where he founded the Dansmuseet in the basement of the Royal Swedish Opera (the museum now has its own space on the same square as the opera in Stockholm across from the water from the royal palace). Much of his art was left to Stockholm’s modern art museum, Moderna Museet.

De Maré seems to have had encountered little censure for his homosexuality – following Börlin’s death, he had a relationship with actor Marcel Hernand; followed by a relationship with his secretary, Hans Evert; then with a postman, Folke Willsson and finally, for the last ten years of his life, with Lars Nilsson, an electrician.

An exhaustive and lavishly illustrated biography of Rolf de Maré by Eric Näslund is available from Amazon, here. He also has a page on wikipedia, here. A shortened version of a TV program about Carina Ari, one of the dancers in the Ballets Suédois and the Ballets can be seen here (in Swedish).

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