B is for ballet

In 1929 Edward James met and fell in love with an Austrian ballet dancer, Ottilie (Tilly) Losch after seeing her perform in C. B. Cochran's production of Noël Coward's musical review This Year of Grace.

Edward and Tilly married in 1931 and Edward began remodelling the interior of his homes in Wimpole and Culcross Streets in London.

Surrealism and sartorial flair

James transformed his mid-Georgian Wimpole Street home into a highly theatrical spectacle with classical marble columns, billowing satin draperies, lush swags and marvellous garlands. In the bathroom designed for his wife, he commissioned the work of the artist Paul Nash and, as a sort of comic invention evocative of the Edwardian culture of jokes and charades, he immortalised Tilly's wet footprint by having it woven into the carpet that led to her bathroom.

Les Ballets 1933

In 1933 Edward sponsored a season of ballets, Les Ballet 1933, a new dance company founded by George Balanchine and Sergei Diaghilev's former secretary, Boris Kochno.

Artists such as Christian Berard and Andre Derain designed by productions with Surrealist artist Pavel Tchelitchew being responsible for the total concept, scenario and designs for L'Errante, one of the ballets specifically created for Tilly Losch.Over the course of the next few years, Losch worked in London and New York as both a dancer and choreographer. In New York she danced in The Band Wagon with Fred and Adele Astaire in 1931.

This ballet illustrated the psychological journeys of its heroine through a world of shadows which were created by lights and back projections on to white muslin. Losch's dress, designed by Russian-born surrealist painter Pavel Tchelitchew, was a deep salamander green with a fifteen foot train.


Edward James and Tilly Losch divorced in 1934. James later replaced the original footprint carpet with a similar one featuring his favourite wolfhound's paw prints.



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