New Compositions: The Dance Portraiture of Orval Hixon

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Hixon transformed the field of portrait photography in Kansas City and the surrounding region during a career that spanned more than seven decades. His studios—the first in the Brady Building at 11th and Main Streets, and the second just one block west in the Baltimore Hotel—welcomed thousands of patrons throughout the 1910s and 1920s.

Dance was an integral part of the vaudeville, Broadway, and film productions of the era. Hixon’s portraits reflect the evolution of dance as styles became more varied, and dancers increasingly began to look at their work as a form of artistic expression as well as commercial spectacle. Hixon subjects such as Ruth St. Denis, founder of the Denishawn school and an instructor of Martha Graham, helped lay the groundwork for what would later be known as modern dance.

New Compositions is the third in a rotating series of exhibits to appear in the permanent gallery located on the vault level of the Central Library. Each exhibit includes photographs that highlight a different theme in Hixon's work.

Admission to the gallery is free. Free parking is available in the Library District Parking Garage at 10th and Baltimore.

The Orval Hixon Gallery has been made possible through a donation by Charles David Hixon, Linda Hixon, and James R. Finley of over 150 digital photographic prints, produced from Hixon's original glass plate negatives, and by the Richard J. Stern Foundation for the Arts – Commerce Bank, Trustee. Ordering information for these images may be found at