Charles Linder

In 1989 I was going to the SF Art Institute and had just finished reading The Diary of Vaslav Nininsky. a riveting portrait of an artist’s descent into madness at the height of his fame. So I was surprised one day when I saw a hand-written note pinned to the community bulletin board in the Film Department outside of Larry Jordan’s screening room. Written by Kyra Nijinsky herself – daughter of the legendary dancer – the note sought an SFAI student to help her in making audio recordings of her own oral histories and brushes with fame…. a career that was always overshadowed by her very famous father’s. Nonetheless, Kyra had her own utterly fascinating life also as a dancer and cover girl on the front of Vogue at age 19 in 1931. A self-taught painter and nomad, she travelled the world doing her art and called San Francisco her home for more than four decades. One night as we were leaving her studio after recording hours of her fabulous capers and affairs, we were stumbling out the door when she shoves this painting into my arms. 

She wanted me to have it as a token of her appreciation for my having taken the time to become her friend and make the hours of recordings. The subject of the painting – Rudolph Nureyev – was in her opinion the only dancer to ever get near her father’s level of sheer legend and infamy, and therefore was her nemesis. She insisted that I take the painting home and I’ll  never forget because I carried it home on the back of a motorcycle in the rain. Notated on the front of the painting are her name, the subject’s name and  S.F. 1973. 


Portrait of Kyra by Oswald Birleyin, 1939