Bloch, Stella

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Stella Bloch was born in Poland between 1897 and 1899 to a Polish-born emigrant mother who had been living in New York and returned there to raise her daughter. Inspired by an Isadora Duncan performance in 1914, Bloch began her earliest training with Duncan's first group of students, the Isadorables. As an adolescent, Bloch took art classes from the Art Students League of New York, and began drawing and documenting dance and dancers. Bloch married Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy, curator of Indian and Muhammadan Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the couple toured the Far East, where Bloch studied the dances of Bali, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, and Java. 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 had many exhibitions of her artwork, primarily in New York but also in California, where she and her second husband, the lyricist Edward Eliscu, lived for a few years.

From the description of Stella Bloch papers, 1914-1991. (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 612239777

Artist and ethnic dancer Stella Bloch (1897-1999) had many varied and unusual accomplishments during her long and productive life.

Born in Tarnow, Poland, but raised in New York City, Bloch began to draw at an early age, 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 young women who served as the company of dancers for Duncan. At the age of 17, she accompanied the art historian 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, New York. Bloch married Coomaraswamy in 1922. It was his third marriage and it ultimately would end in divorce in 1930. While working on and off Broadway, Bloch met the lyricist Edward Eliscu and the two were married in 1931. They moved to Hollywood soon after their marriage, where both worked in the film industry for many years, later returning to New York in the 1950s after Eliscu had been blacklisted. The couple moved to Newtown, Connecticut in 1966, where they remained until the time of their respective deaths, a few months apart. Throughout her life, Bloch continued her art work. It was during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s that Bloch first had 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. Bloch's artwork also was featured in Dance Magazine and shown at many galleries. Beginning in 1983, she was represented by the Beaux Arts Gallery in Woodbury, Connecticut, where retrospectives were shown in 1996 and 2000.

From the description of Stella Bloch papers, 1907-1999. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122349345

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Bloch, Stella [clippings] New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Bloch, Stella. Stella Bloch papers, 1914-1991. Houghton Library
creatorOf Bloch, Stella. Stella Bloch papers, 1907-1999. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Bloch, Stella. Artist file. Brooklyn Museum Libraries & Archives
referencedIn Coomaraswamy, Ananda Kentish, 1877-1947. Correspondence with Carl Zigrosser, 1918-1936,n.d. University of Pennsylvania Library
referencedIn Bloch, Stella : [miscellaneous ephemeral material]. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas J. Watson Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Barrymore, Ethel, 1879-1959 person
associatedWith Coomaraswamy, Ananda Kentish, 1877-1947. person
correspondedWith Cukor, George, 1899-1983 person
associatedWith Duncan, Isadora, 1877-1927. person
associatedWith Eastman Theatre (Rochester, N.Y.) corporateBody
correspondedWith Eliscu, David person
correspondedWith Eliscu, Edward, 1902-1998 person
correspondedWith Eliscu, Peter person
associatedWith Inyoka, Nyota person
correspondedWith Lehac, Ned, 1899-1999 person
associatedWith Macy's (Firm), corporateBody
associatedWith New York City Ballet. corporateBody
correspondedWith Offner, Mortimer person
correspondedWith Sherman, Jane, 1908-2010 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Indonesia--Bali Island
United States
Harlem (New York, N.Y.)
United States
Dancers in art
Court dancing
Anti-communist movements
Harlem Renaissance, 1920-1940
Women artists--20th century
Jazz--Pictorial works
Women dancers--20th century


Active 1907

Active 1999





Ark ID: w6kh131b

SNAC ID: 67501078