Photograph

Portrait of Sammy Baird in Dance

Sammy Baird was a local Kansas City dance instructor and vaudeville performer. This picture captures a profile view of Baird in a dramatic dancer's pose, effortlessly balanced on a single pointed toe with the other leg bent and the knee and lifted. She repeats the pose with her arms, holding her left arm raised in the air above her while her right arm grazes her right calf to conclude her overall balance. As if being held in a dip by an unseen dance partner, she looks behind her with her chin pointed skyward.

Portrait of Senator James Reed

James A. Reed was a political ally of Thomas Pendergast and served as a Kansas City mayor, senator, and presidential candidate. Reed arrived in Kansas City in 1887 and began a law practice. In 1896 Reed was appointed county counselor and in 1898 was elected prosecuting attorney for Jackson County. He caught the eye of the Pendergast brothers, Jim and Tom, and in 1900 Reed received the Democratic nomination for mayor and won the election. His election as mayor marked the rise of alderman Jim Pendergast as a political force in Kansas City. Reed served as mayor from 1900 to 1903.

Portrait of Sessue Hayakawa

When a punctured eardrum ended Japanese born Sessue Hayakawa's original dream of a naval career, he enrolled at the University of Chicago to study banking. During a 1914 trip to Los Angeles, Hayakawa was lured into acting and went on to become one of the great film idols of the early motion picture era, rivaling Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin in popularity. Hayakawa is best remembered today for his portrayal of the brutal Colonel Saito in the 1957 British film "The Bridge on the River Kwai," for which he received an Oscar nomination at age 68.

Portrait of Sessue Hayawaka in White Shirt

When a punctured eardrum ended Japanese born Sessue Hayakawa's original dream of a naval career, he enrolled at the University of Chicago to study banking. During a 1914 trip to Los Angeles, Hayakawa was lured into acting and went on to become one of the great film idols of the early motion picture era, rivaling Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin in popularity. Hayakawa is best remembered today for his portrayal of the brutal Colonel Saito in the 1957 British film "The Bridge on the River Kwai," for which he received an Oscar nomination at age 68.

Portrait of Sir Harry Lauder and Wife

Originally from a poor background in Scotland, Harry Lauder rose in the entertainment world to become a star of British Music Hall, American Vaudeville, Australian Variety, records, radio, and films. His act was a blend of storytelling and sly humor with sentimental ballads like “I Love a Lassie,” “Roamin’ in the Gloamin’,” and “The End of the Road,” and comic songs such as “Stop Yer Tickling, Jock”. He was Knighted for his support of the war effort during WWI. He and his wife are pictured here in affluent dress with Sir Lauder in the traditional Scottish kilt and tam.

Portrait of Taylor Holmes

Taylor Holmes began his career in Vaudeville and made his Broadway debut in 1900 in the controversial play "Sapho." The production was briefly closed on the grounds of "indecency" for suggesting two unmarried characters were ascending a staircase to an unseen bedroom. Holmes appeared in more than 100 stage productions, but is probably best remembered for his many film performances. He played Marilyn Monroe's potential father-in-law in 1953's "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and voiced King Stefan in Disney's animated film "Sleeping Beauty" in 1959.

Portrait of the Duncan Sisters

The Duncan Sisters were American actresses and motion picture figures of the 1920s. They were 12 and 14 when they entered vaudeville in 1914. They performed, as the Duncan Sisters, and were noted for their radio personas, “Topsy and Eva”. Later Rosetta and Vivian would find greater success, as a stage duo, with the act “Topsy and Eva”. Rosetta played the part of Topsy. In a contemporary context, this character is viewed as an insensitive role, as the persona was portrayed in blackface. Her older sister Vivian played the more subdued and innocent Eva.

Portrait of the Flying Alcova

Orval used his creative skills and abilities to create this “Flying Alcova” horizontal image. In his studio, he photographed her laying in position on a table. Later in the darkroom, he then removed the table from his 11x14 glass negative by dissolving the image using potassium ferricyanide. He then covered parts of the negative with lampblack and etched and painted additional details on the glass negative. Hixon's efforts greatly add to the perception of movement and sublimity. In this position, Alcova's bent right arm is raised above her head.

Portrait of the Hixon Family (i)

Like many families in the 19th century, the Hixons took advantage of photography as an affordable way to capture images of loved ones. During his own career, Hixon contributed to the development of a new, less formal type of studio portrait that emphasized individuality and personality rather than relying on standard props or formal poses. In this photograph, focus is placed on a matriarchal figure surrounded by six children, three girls to the left and three boys to the right. Each figure is dressed in formal attire, poised in a dignified stance with solemn expression.

Portrait of the Singer Midgets

Before they endeared themselves to film audiences in "The Wizard of Oz," the Singer Midgets were stars on Broadway. Organized and managed by Viennese-born Leo Singer, all were from Austria or Hungary. The troupe averaged about 20 members, although many more were added along with a number of young girls aged 7-9 for the making of the class "Oz" in 1939. The Singer Midgets disbanded in the mid-1940s, though some including Billy Curtis and Jerry Maren enjoyed extended Hollywood careers.

Portrait of Theda Bara (i)

Sepia toned photograph of Theda Bara. Theda Bara was an American actress in both silent film and the stage. Bara was cinema's original vamp, the dark, heartless seductress who lured men to their destruction. It was a persona that she and her studio also perpeturated off-screen. The daughter of immigrant Jews, Bara was born Theodosia Goodman in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Portrait Of Theda Bara (ii)

Theda Bara was an American actress known for her roles in both silent film and stage. Bara was cinema's original vamp. She was the dark, heartless seductress who lured men to their destruction. The persona was one that she and her studio perpetuated off the screen as well.

Portrait of Theodore Kosloff

Theodore Kosloff was a Russian-born ballet dancer, choreographer, and film and stage actor. He completed his ballet training at Moscow's Imperial Theater in 1901 and while on tour around the United States in 1909, became acquainted with Cecil B. De Mille. De Mille cast Kosloff's first acting role in his 1917 film "The Woman God Forgot" with Geraldine Farrar. Kosloff's acting career spanned the 1920's but was balanced with a steady involvement in ballet. After his acting career, Kosloff opened a ballet school in Los Angeles where he lived the rest of his life.

Portrait of Theodore Kosloff in Dance

Dancer and choreographer Theodore Kosloff (1882-1956) trained from a young age at the Imperial School of Dance in Moscow. His fame came when he began dancing in England and France before moving on to the United States. There, he started a nationally renowned school of dance in Los Angeles and performed in several Cecil B. DeMille films. In this portrait, Kosloff is posed as a virile warrior still reveling in either the spoils of a victorious campaign or the tragic woes of defeat. With his decidedly dramatic pose, he could have come straight off of a hellenistic period vase.

Portrait of Treat Head

Portrait of an unknown figure titled "Treat Head". The figure is captured in a sinister portrayal. The atmosphere is extremely dark, obscuring the model in shadows. Shadow effect is a major component of this portrait. As the figure is lit from below, casting the dark silhouette of their hands eerily on the model's face. The darkness of the scene and the lighting provide the face and hands a luminescence appeal. Surrounding the head of the figure is a high collared garment, possibly a cape, that has decorative aspects to it.

Portrait of Unidentified Fanchon & Marco Dancer

Orval Hixon photographed this unidentified Fanchon & Marco dancer in such a way that she simultaneously exudes both strengthen and vulnerability all in a 3/4 length pose. Her confident gaze to the viewer's left is belied by her left hand clutching a shibori-lined velvet drape to her chest. Her left hand rests on her left hip. She wears a form-fitting crinkled lame' dress. A large hat rests atop a floral scarf that is tied over her loosely curled dark hair. As was sometimes the case, Hixon manipulated this image in the darkroom.

Portrait of Unknown Subject

The addition of a whimsical pointed crown and ruffled white babydoll costume lends a playful lighthearted mood to this portrait of an unknown subject. She stands in ballerina slippers with her left foot on pointe and her right leg extended at a 90 degree angle. Her left hand delicately caresses the ruffles of her costume and she holds her right arm suspended in the air. She smiles at the camera as she appears to emerge from the darkness. Hixon Studio KC MO is signed in the bottom left corner of the photograph.

Portrait of Unknown Subject

This unknown figure stands confidently with hands on her hips and directing her gaze to the right with a slightly bemused smile. The model is dressed in a dark jacket embellished with light colored scroll work on the long cuffs, pockets, and fur lined collar. Her simple "V" necked dark dress, is accentuated with a double looped string of pearls. The model has the iconic 1920’s bobbed haircut that is partially covered by a wide brimmed dark hat. The light background ensures the figure has complete prominence.

Portrait of Unknown Subject

The evolution of abstract photography has primarily been driven by the pioneering explorations of individual artists. For this portrait, Orval Hixon used traditional methods to photograph the human form in a way that emphasized its abstract qualities. In this portrait of an unknown subject, we as viewers are invited to appreciate the ambiguity of abstraction. It is only through close observation that one's eye detects a human form standing alone in a dark space. The eye is drawn to a strongly lit profile and then quickly searches the remainder of the photograph for further clues.

Portrait of Unknown Vaudevillian Actor with Bolero and Cigarette

A number of Orval Hixon's photographs include figure studies and portraits of unknown vaudevillian performers. This portrait of a young unknown vaudevillian actor is a great example of Hixon's playfulness. The young man stares directly at the viewer. While his facial features and the decoration of the hat are well lit and in detail, his shirt and the strap of the bolero are blurred. The focus appears to be on the eyes, nose, and lips of the young man. Dangling from his well defined lips is a cigarette.

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