Published: Friday, March 14, 2008 - Section: Local/National - Page: 1A - Belleville News-Democrat

DASH: - A newly discovered oil portrait of world-famous choreographer, dancer, human rights activist and anthropologist Katherine Dunham was unveiled Thursday in St. Louis.

The portrait was painted in 1943 by Werner Philipp, a German-born painter and muralist. The portrait will not be on public display until Nov. 3 when the Missouri History Museum opens a new exhibit, "Katherine Dunham: Beyond the Dance." The collection includes items donated to the museum by Dunham in 1991, including performance costumes, photographs and prints. and archival documents.

Dunham, who was born in Chicago and spent much of her youth in Joliet, died May 21, 2006, at age 96. She lived in East St. Louis for more than 30 years and the city's post office is named for her. She is considered a pioneer of 20th century dance and was known for calling attention to social injustices in the United States and around the world, including civil rights issues. At 82, Dunham held a 47-day hunger strike to protest America's relations with Haiti.

"It is not known whether Katherine Dunham actually sat for this painting, but her work on another project did give her the opportunity to be on the West Coast shortly before its signed date," said Jacqueline K. Dace, the curator of African-American collections at the Missouri History Museum. "In 1942, Katherine Dunham choreographed and performed a solo number in the patriotic comedy, `Star Spangled Rhythm,' featuring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby."

The portrait of Dunham was previously unknown until the museum's online research on Dunham led to its discovery and purchase. It was found during a general search for Dunham-related items on eBay and was found hanging in an antique store in California.

"The existence of this painting was not known to us or to Katherine Dunham's daughter, Marie-Christine," Dace said.