Winged Dancer on Stage

Winged Dancer on Stage

A female dancer wearing a bird-like costume outfitted with wings performs on stage, most likely in New York City. The dancer may have been affiliated with the Ruth Doing School of Rhythmics. Doing was a former dancer and student of Isadora Duncan (1877-1927) who had founded a dance camp along with business and life partner Gail Gardner in the Adirondack Mountains of New York in 1916, and was an active teacher of dance “Rhythmics” at the camp and in the city at least through the early 1930’s.

Another more intriguing possibility exists however as to the identity of the dancer here, with this archive holding six different examples taken by Delight Weston in 1927.

To wit, an argument can be made, based on the time period for boundary-breaking inventiveness in the dance medium as well as this artist’s stature, facial features and hair, that she is none other than pioneering modern American dancer Martha Graham. (1894-1991) One study in particular held by this archive: “Dancer with Long Robe”, bears a striking resemblance to a similar garment worn by Graham as part of her dance “A Study in Lacquer”. This was featured along with others as part of the premiere of the Martha Graham Company in New York in April, 1926. See Richard Burke’s photograph in the magazine The Dance from August, 1926. Of course, this website is happy to amend this theory if further evidence is produced.

Photographer Delight Weston lived with dance school founder Ruth Doing (1881-1966) at the time this photograph was taken, and Doing is known to have had a professional relationship with Martha Graham in the dance community near the Carnegie Hall neighborhood in lending out studio space to her. In the 2005 volume: Bessie Schönberg : Pioneer Dance Educator and Choreographic Mentor, by Cynthia Nazzaro Noble, we learn that in 1929, a very young “Schönberg attended her first dance class with Martha Graham at Ruth Doing’s studio near Carnegie Hall.” (p. 40)

Short Biography: Delight Weston:  1887-1968

1887: Born Irma Delight Weston on April 29 in Dayton, OH to Edward Banning Weston (1864-1932) and Blanche Phillips Weston. (1867-1929) Her father was president of the Weston Paper & Manufacturing Company, the Rockford Paper Mill Company, and the Auglaize Box Board Company, all of Dayton. Irma’s middle name- Delight- is named for her maternal grandmother Delight Sylvina Allen Phillips. (1838-1909)

1909: Irma Delight Weston graduates from Smith College, Northampton, MA. Her home address listed in the Smith College class book is 102 Sunset Ave., Dayton, OH.

1917: Completed a course of instruction at the Clarence H. White School of Photography in New York City.

– Photographs the important Polish-American suffragist Ruza Wenclawska. (1889-1977) Her portrait appears in the 1917 White School class album dedicated to Clarence White now held by Princeton University.

– Her father E.B. Weston has a balloon constructed around this time which he names “The Delight” after his daughter. It is not known if she was an aeronaut like her father, with online references erroneously stating she was the first American woman to own a hot-air balloon. (1.)

– Her photographs were included in the the traveling Pictorial Photographers of America shows that traveled from 1917-18 in New England and the Midwest. (source: biography: “Creative Continuum: The Pictorial Photographers of America 1916-1950 by Christian A. Peterson, 2019. p. 141.

1918: At this time or earlier, she was spending summers in Blue Hill, Maine, with this address included in the catalogue “Pictorial Photographs By American Artists. Under the Joint Auspices of the Camera Club of Detroit and the Detroit Museum of Art” held January 4-28 at the museum.

1920: Annual Register of the Alumnae Association of Smith College

lists Weston’s address in New York City as 139 West 56th Street. (2.)

– Joined the Pictorial Photographers of America. (PPA)

– A single photograph by the photographer: “Eleanor”, showing a little girl standing with a large hoop, is published in the Pictorial Photography of America annual this year. Other photographs by her appear in subsequent editions for 1921: “The Dance”, showing two female dancers intertwined before a curtain backdrop, “Stairway, Chartres”, taken in Chartres, Centre-Val de Loire, France: an overhead cityscape study with figure was published in collotype for the 1926 annual and one other photo by her appeared in the 1929 annual.

1922: Her PPA work accepted in the Buffalo Photographic Salon and also in the Pittsburgh Salon: with the former also accepting it for their 1923 and 1925 salons. (source: biography reference above for 1917)

1923: Her PPA work included in the groups New York international salon.

1924: The Smith Alumnae Quarterly states:

“Delight Weston has returned from a trip to Bermuda and has opened her studio at 446 W. 24 St., New York, where she makes charming photographs. This year she has an assistant.

– The same year, as early as April, she takes out successive monthly advertisements in the pages of the International Studio on a page dedicated to “Photography As An Art” for her commercial portrait business, with the address she had apparently been living at since at least 1920:


139 West 56th Street

New York City

Experienced in the Psychology and Art of


Weston maintained her studio at this NYC address as late as 1930, as listed in the 1930 The American Annual of Photography.

1926: In January, a solo show of her work appeared at The Art Center in New York City. (source: biography reference above for 1917)

1929: Her PPA work included in the groups New York international salon.

1968: Died on June 17 in Stamford, CT. Buried at Seaside Cemetery in Blue Hill, Hancock county Maine.

Print notes Verso: Signed in graphite by the artist in lower right corner below print on primary mount: Delight Weston ’27 and further signed in graphite within lower left corner of print using a cipher WD; slight retouching by artist to print.


1. Source: article in PAPER: organ of the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry: August 20, 1919: Prominent Paper Man Enters Balloon Race | DAYTON, O., Aug. 18- E. B. Weston, president of the Weston Paper and Manufacturing Company, of this city, will enter the international balloon race to be started from St. Louis next October. This statement was given out by Mr. Weston this week. Mr. Weston has long been an enthusiastic aeronaut. Several years ago, when the balloon spirit was prevalent throughout the country, he contracted with Leo Stevens, of Indianapolis, formerly a resident of this city, to construct one for him. In recognition of the affection he sustains for his daughter, Miss Delight Weston, the big gas bag was named “The Delight.” This balloon has now been taken out and an inspection is being made of it. If it meets all requirements, it will be entered in the contest next October. Mr. Stevens is now the chief instructor for the balloon section of the United States Air Service. In the event “The Delight” proves unsatisfactory, Mr. Weston will have Mr. Stevens build him another with a capacity of 100,000 pounds. In the construction of this balloon provision will be made for the use of helium gas instead of hydrogen. (p. 39)  It is believed that American Mary Myers, (1849-1932) otherwise known as “Carlotta, the Lady Aeronaut”, was the true first woman to fly and own many hot air balloons”: from Wikipedia: “Myers ran a business of manufacturing and selling passenger airship balloons and high altitude weather balloons with her husband, Carl Myers.”

2. Some interesting background on this address appears as part of a two-part article on the death of famed 1920’s flapper Dorothy King, the so-called “Broadway Butterfly” found murdered in her apartment in this neighborhood in 1923: “The building at 139, refitted with “housekeeping studios,” became the hub of what appears to have been a madcap, bohemian artist community, including the well-known rhythm-dance instructor Ruth Doing, dancer Doris Canfield, opera singer Gail Gardner, photographer Delight Weston, as well as arts enthusiast Louise Bybee, all of whom lived there together and never married.” Source: Blogger site “An Open Book” from entry “Death of a Flapper: Part Two” (July 25, 2012). Ruth Doing’s studio was located on the second floor of this four story building shown in a photograph with the post from the New York Public Library archives. An incomplete web survey of primary sources lists The Ruth Doing School of Rhythm located at this address from at least 1933-1940.

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Winged Dancer on Stage

Image Dimensions15.5 x 20.4 cm tipped

Support Dimensions28.5 x 36.3 cm manilla card-stock, shown cropped to window mat