Bloch, Stella

Hide Profile

Stella Bloch was born in Poland between 1897 and 1899 to a Polish-born emigrant mother who had been living in New York. Her exact date of birth is unknown. Although born in Poland, due to her mother's distrust of American doctors, Bloch was raised in New York City. Inspired by an Isadora Duncan performance in 1914, Bloch began her earliest training with Duncan's first group of students, the Isadorables. She also became interested in Spanish dance. As an adolescent, Bloch took art classes from the Art Students League of New York. She began drawing and documenting the dance and dancers to which she was exposed.

Before she was twenty-years old, Bloch married Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy, curator of Indian and Muhammadan Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The couple toured the Far East, where Bloch studied the dances of Bali, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, and Java. Her time in the East included a year spent in the palace of the Prince of Solo in Java to learn Javanese dance under an Eastern dance master. While abroad, Bloch recorded in her sketchbooks the costumes and dances of the cultures she experienced. Upon her return to Boston and New York, Bloch gave performances of Javanese dance and lectures on life in the Far East. She wrote articles for magazines, and was featured in newspapers and magazines as well. She published a book, Dancing and the Drama East and West (Orientalia, 1922), which contrasted Eastern theater with Western theater. The book also included some of Bloch's sketches from Bali, Cambodia, China, and Java. Bloch opened a studio and taught classes in natural movement as well as Javanese dance. Before 1923 she danced with Ballet Intime, an American company formed and led by Adolph Bolm, Michio Ito, and Roshanara. Bloch and Coomaraswamy divorced in the 1920s.

Bloch became involved in the Broadway circuit and performed in revues. She headlined at the Eastman Theatre in Rochester, New York, and also worked with the Garrick Gaieties at the Guild Theatre in New York City. While working on and off Broadway, Bloch met lyricist Edward Eliscu. The two were married in 1931.

Around this time, Bloch became involved in the Harlem jazz scene. She first spent time at the Cotton Club and Alhambra Theatre. She learned the authentic version of the Charleston from Cotton Club dancer Elida (Edna) Webb, and performed it to rave reviews by audiences and newspaper reporters alike. Bloch ventured into the clubs where white patrons did not go, where the jazz was hot and evolving. She preferred these clubs to white entertainment clubs such as the Cotton Club. Bloch also began sketching the performers at the night clubs. She became the first white woman to chronicle the Harlem Renaissance, and is most known for her artwork documenting this time period of artistic growth. She was respected by her jazz counterparts and formed acquaintances with them. Among the many performers she documented were Josephine Baker, Bessie Smith, Dusty Fletcher, and Thelonius Monk.

Bloch had many exhibitions of her artwork, primarily in New York but also in California, where she and Eliscu lived for a few years. Bloch's work was also exhibited at shows of African-American artists where she was the only white artist accepted to display. The exhibitions, at such galleries as Macy's and the Montross Gallery in New York City, brought recognition to Bloch, not only for her work documenting Harlem, but Duncan, Eastern, and New York City Ballet dancers as well.

Bloch and Eliscu moved to Connecticut in the mid-1960s. They had two children, David and Peter. During the 1960s Bloch wrote a four-act play about Isadora Duncan entitled Sundown. Publication information for Sundown is unknown. Bloch also continued her art exhibitions during this time. Eliscu died in 1998.

Bloch continued to exhibit her artwork into the late stages of her life. She died at the reported age of 101 of pneumonia on January 10, 1999, in the Bethel Health Care Center in Bethel, Connecticut.

From the guide to the Stella Bloch papers, 1914-1991., (Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University)

Stella Bloch was born in 1897 in Tarnow, Poland, but raised in New York City. At an early age she began to draw, but it was a performance of Isadora Duncan in 1914, that changed her life. Bloch became the first American student of the Isadorables, the six women who were the company of dancers for Duncan.

At the age of 17, she accompanied Ananda Coomaraswamy on a trip to India and the Far East. While there, she learned the native dances of Bali, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, and Java. She spent a year in the palace of the Prince of Solo learning the Javanese dance. Upon her return to the United States, she performed these dances to enthusiastic crowds and headlined at the Eastman Theatre in Rochester, NY.

Bloch married Coomaraswamy in 1922. It was Coomaraswamy’s third marriage. The couple spent most of their married life in different cities; he in Boston as the curator of Indian and Muhammadan Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and she in New York City. The couple divorced in 1930.

While working on and off Broadway, Bloch met the lyricist Edward Eliscu. The couple married in 1931. They moved to Hollywood soon after, where they both worked in the movies. Because of the House Committee on Un-American Activities of the 1950s, Eliscu was blacklisted and the family moved back to New York City. Eliscu worked in television until he was again blacklisted. The couple moved to Newtown, Connecticut in 1966, where they remained until their deaths.

Throughout her life, Bloch continued her art work. It was during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s that Bloch sketched and painted pieces that would later be hailed as her best; subjects include Josephine Baker, Bessie Smith, Thelonious Monk as well as Harlem street scenes. One of her pieces was used as the logo art of the Broadway musical Black and Blue in 1989.

Her artwork has been featured in Dance Magazine and shown at the Library for the Performing Arts and The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, both part of The New York Public Library. Other exhibitions have been at the Montross Gallery, New Macy Galleries, and Touchstone Galleries in New York City and Braxton Gallery, Warner Galleries, and Putzel Gallery, of Hollywood, California. Beginning in 1983 she was represented by the Beaux Arts Gallery in Woodbury, Connecticut, where retrospectives were shown in 1996 and 2000.

The Eliscu’s had two sons, David and Peter, and six grandchildren. Edward died in June 1998. Stella Bloch died in January 1999 just one day short of her 101st birthday.

From the guide to the Stella Bloch papers, 1907-1999, (The New York Public Library. Jerome Robbins Dance Division.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Stella Bloch papers, 1914-1991. Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University.
creatorOf Stella Bloch papers, 1907-1999 The New York Public Library. Jerome Robbins Dance Division.
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Actors' Equity Association corporateBody
correspondedWith Adolph Bolm person
correspondedWith AFG Literary Agency corporateBody
associatedWith Agnes de Mille person
associatedWith Alberta Hunter person
associatedWith Alhambra Theatre corporateBody
associatedWith Ananda Coomaraswamy person
associatedWith Anna (Duncan?) person
associatedWith Arnold Genthe person
correspondedWith Arthur G. McKean person
associatedWith Art Tenders corporateBody
associatedWith Balanchine person
associatedWith Barrymore, Ethel person
associatedWith Barrymore, Lionel person
correspondedWith B. Board person
correspondedWith Belmont Theatre Corporation corporateBody
associatedWith Bessie Smith person
associatedWith Bloom, Rube person
associatedWith Bolm, Adolph person
associatedWith Booth, Alice person
correspondedWith Braxton Galleries corporateBody
associatedWith Brownell-Labertson Galleries corporateBody
correspondedWith Brownell-Lambertson Galleries, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Bullocks-Wilshire Gallery corporateBody
associatedWith Cherry Lane Playhouse corporateBody
associatedWith Clara Smith person
associatedWith Clarence Williams person
associatedWith Coomaraswamy, Ananda person
associatedWith Courtland Gardens Residence corporateBody
associatedWith Cukor, George, 1899-1983 person
associatedWith Dawson, Elida (Edna) Webb person
associatedWith Delza, Sophia person
associatedWith de Mille, Agnes person
associatedWith Denis de Marney person
correspondedWith Doll and Richards, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Doll & Richard's corporateBody
correspondedWith Doll & Richards, Inc. corporateBody
correspondedWith Dorothy Coit person
correspondedWith Dr. Ananda Coomaraswamy person
associatedWith Duncan, Isadora person
associatedWith Duncan, Isadora, 1877-1927 person
associatedWith Duncan, Lisa person
associatedWith Dusty Fletcher person
correspondedWith Eastman Theatre corporateBody
correspondedWith Edith J. R. Isaacs person
associatedWith Edith Wilson person
correspondedWith Edna J. Cookingham person
associatedWith Edwin Denby person
associatedWith Eliscu, David person
associatedWith Eliscu, Edward person
associatedWith Eliscu, Peter person
correspondedWith Eliscu, Stella person
correspondedWith Embassy Café corporateBody
associatedWith Ethel Barrymore person
associatedWith Fess Williams person
associatedWith Fletcher Henderson person
associatedWith Frank Courry person
correspondedWith Freida Fishbein Authors corporateBody
associatedWith Galleries of Marie Sterner corporateBody
associatedWith Garrick Gaieties corporateBody
associatedWith Garrick Theatre corporateBody
correspondedWith George Cukor person
associatedWith Grand Central Palace corporateBody
associatedWith Grove Street Theater corporateBody
associatedWith Guild Theatre corporateBody
associatedWith Hall, Carnegie person
associatedWith Harris, Marion person
correspondedWith Harry Braxton person
associatedWith Heckscher Theatre corporateBody
associatedWith Hegamin, Lucile person
associatedWith Henderson, Rosa person
associatedWith Herbert Bliss person
correspondedWith Howard Putzel person
correspondedWith International Studio corporateBody
associatedWith Inyoka, Nyota person
associatedWith Isadora Duncan person
associatedWith Jess Williams person
correspondedWith John Murray Anderson person
associatedWith John Ross person
associatedWith Kai Khosro person
correspondedWith Kent, Rockwell person
correspondedWith K. T. L'Engle person
associatedWith Lafayette Theatre corporateBody
associatedWith Lehac, Ned, 1899-1999 person
correspondedWith Leland Hayward, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Lena Wilson person
associatedWith Leonard Sillman person
associatedWith Leona Williams person
associatedWith Leona Wilson person
associatedWith Leopold Godowsky person
correspondedWith Lester Aweyd person
associatedWith Lisa (Duncan?) person
correspondedWith Louis S person
correspondedWith Lucile Rici person
correspondedWith Lyceum Players corporateBody
associatedWith Macy Galleries corporateBody
associatedWith Mamie Smith person
associatedWith Martin, Sara person
associatedWith Mary Stafforo person
correspondedWith Maximilian Becker person
correspondedWith Messrs. Roehm & Richards Co., Inc. corporateBody
correspondedWith Michio Itow person
associatedWith Million Dollar Playhouse Public Theatre corporateBody
associatedWith Minskoff Theatre corporateBody
correspondedWith Miriam Howell person
associatedWith Montross Gallery corporateBody
associatedWith Moore, Monette person
associatedWith Mortimer Offner person
correspondedWith Mr. Carroll person
associatedWith Mrs. Anita Davis-Chase person
correspondedWith Mrs. Edward Eliscu person
associatedWith Mrs. Gilbert person
correspondedWith Mrs. Harold Hamdridge person
associatedWith New Macy Galleries corporateBody
associatedWith New York City Ballet corporateBody
correspondedWith Nyota Inyoka person
associatedWith Offner, Mortimer person
correspondedWith Paul R. Milton person
associatedWith Public Theatre corporateBody
correspondedWith Putzel Gallery corporateBody
associatedWith Reicher, Hedwig person
associatedWith Revel Gallery corporateBody
correspondedWith R. H. Macy & Co., Inc. corporateBody
correspondedWith Richard Herndon person
associatedWith Rochester Camera Exchange corporateBody
correspondedWith Rouhen Mamoulian person
associatedWith Sam Ornitz person
associatedWith Saunders, Gertrude person
associatedWith S. Bloch person
correspondedWith School of American Research corporateBody
correspondedWith Sheldon Parsons person
associatedWith Sherman, Jane, 1908- person
associatedWith Shubert Theatre corporateBody
associatedWith Sidney Ross Gallery corporateBody
correspondedWith S. L. Rothapfel person
associatedWith Southeast Museum corporateBody
correspondedWith Souvain, Henry person
associatedWith Stafford, Mary person
correspondedWith Stella Bloch person
correspondedWith Stella Block person
correspondedWith Stella F. Simon person
associatedWith Sylvester, Hannah person
associatedWith Tanaquil Le Clerq person
associatedWith The Art Students League of New York corporateBody
associatedWith The Chateau Dansant corporateBody
associatedWith The Selwyn Theatre corporateBody
associatedWith The Silo corporateBody
associatedWith The Theatre Guild corporateBody
associatedWith The Touchstone Art Galleries corporateBody
associatedWith The Weyhe Gallery corporateBody
associatedWith Touchstone Art Galleries corporateBody
associatedWith Touchstone Galleries corporateBody
associatedWith Underwood & Underwood Studios, New York corporateBody
associatedWith Victoria Spivey person
correspondedWith Virgil Baker person
associatedWith Warner Galleries Incorporated corporateBody
correspondedWith Warner Warner Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith WHAS Radio Louisville 2 corporateBody
associatedWith WHAS Radio Louisville 2, Kentucky corporateBody
associatedWith Wilson, Edith person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Subject
Anti-communist movements--United States
Occupation
Artists
Function

Person

Information

Permalink: http://n2t.net/ark:/99166/w6tr8trp

Ark ID: w6tr8trp

SNAC ID: 60744298