Object Image

Merce Cunningham

Merce Cunningham 16 Apr 1919 - 26 Jul 2009

Born Centralia, Washington

Describing the art form as "that single fleeting movement when you feel alive," choreographer Merce Cunningham revolutionized dance. Over seven decades, he challenged choreographic conventions by embracing everyday movement, welcoming chance, and experimenting with technology. A protégé of Martha Graham, Cunningham first performed with her company from 1939 to 1945, but by 1953 he decided to form his own group.

Cunningham's interdisciplinary collaborations across the artistic spectrum, notably those he forged with his life partner, the composer John Cage, had a profound reach beyond the world of modern dance. He treated mu...

Oil on canvas
243.8 x 122.2 x 5.1 cm
Image and text © National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 2024

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