Rudolf Nureyev (1938-1993) was one of the most celebrated ballet and modern dance performers of the 20th Century. He danced for The Royal Ballet and, in 1983, was appointed Director of the Paris Opera Ballet. Jamie Wyeth first met the dancer in 1974, and was immediately taken by his charismatic personality and magical stage presence. In 1977, Nureyev agreed to be the artist's model, allowing Wyeth to follow him on numerous occasions as he prepared and danced back stage. Wyeth worked to create interpretations of the dancer that demonstrated the movement and emotion that photos failed to capture. In this time Nureyev became a close friend of both the artist and his wife, Phyllis Wyeth. Phyllis colorfully recalled her memories of the dancer, "Nureyev exuded animal energy. His spirit was the spirit of a racehorse with all its beauty and muscle and speed. His body had that perfection. When I watched him dance, his dance was dancing in me. He was my wings, my freedom, my courage." (Farnsworth Art Museum, Capturing Nureyev: James Wyeth Paints the Dancer, Maine, 2002, p. 25)
This work is included in the database of the artist's work being compiled by the Wyeth Center at the William A. Farnsworth Museum, Rockland, Maine.