Virtual Museum

Virtual Museum

David Walker

Born 1934 in Kolkata, India; Died 2008 in Herefordshire, England

Although his career took place entirely in the twentieth century, David Walker’s mastery of nineteenth-century Romantic ballet aesthetics was unparalleled by other designers of his time. Visual characteristics of the Romantic period of ballet include Romantic tutus with calf-length tulle and tight bodices as well as atmospheric limelight, which designers often used to create mysterious and supernatural scenes. Walker artfully brought these elements to the twentieth-century stage.

Early in his career, Walker established himself as a designer who could capture magic and whimsy in ballet. Walker began designing costumes for Sir Frederick Ashton’s The Dream for The Royal Ballet in 1964, a production based on William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The ballet takes place in an enchanted forest, its characters subject to the whims of the ruling fairies. Walker’s designs embodied the dream-like aura of the ballet with ethereal and playful costumes inspired by the flora and fauna of the enchanted forest.

The National Ballet of Canada premiered this production of The Dream on February 15, 1978 featuring Walker’s designs. Soon after in 1981, Walker designed sets and costumes for Peter Schaufuss’ Napoli for The National Ballet of Canada. Set in early nineteenth-century Naples, Walker aptly conveyed the period through a colourful interpretation of the fishermen, the local women and their southern Italian port city.

Walker’s understanding of period costume, his skills as an artist and craftsman, and his ability to create magical scenes onstage all contribute to his legacy as a prominent twentieth-century designer.

View the exhibit 

Associated Productions

The Dream (1978)

Napoli (1981)

Cinderella (1995)

Top image credit: The National Ballet of Canada tutus on display. Photo by Setareh Sarmadi.