20th century ballet was born in St Petersburg, from a group of artists who were disenchanted with the arts scene in Russia. They included the painters Leon Bakst and Alexandre Benois, Serge Diaghilev, who had won fame for organising exhibitions of Russian paintings in Paris, and the choreographer Michael Fokine, who had become disaffected with the conservative, traditional ballets of Petipa.
(George Gratham Bain Collection/Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (Digital File Number: LC-DIG-ggbain-22745)Encyclopaedia Britannica, Katleen Kuiper 5/10/2016)
His artistic development on his own words progressed “From a graphic artist I became a pure painter” (He wrote to the collector and critic P.D. Ettinger in 1910). “It is easier to feel and synthesize form through paint; it is more real.” Bakst wrote to the artist A. P. Ostroumova-Lebedeva.
Works by Lev Bakst are in many museum collections, including the State Tretyakov Gallery, the
“ … In place of the traditional dualism, the ballet must have a complete unity of expression, a unity which is made up of a harmonious blending of the three elements-music, painting and the plastic arts… dancing should be interpretative. It should not degenerate into mere gymnastics… it should explain the spirit…” Michael Fokine’s principles for the new Ballet. (www.michelfokine.com)
Diaghilev Ballet souvenir programme, 1912 by Bakst
This dance drama was the first production completely devised by Diaghilev and his collaborators, bringing together vivid visual spectacle, powerful choreography and a re-orchestrated version of the 1888 symphonic suite that Rimsky-Korsakov had based on tales from The Arabian nights. Bakst’s costumes are an imagined orientalist amalgam of Ottoman and Persian styles, pale and diaphanous silk harem pants for the almées contrasting with strongly coloured, embroidered and intricately structured silk and velvet costumes for the lead male characters. Bakst’s drawing for Shah Zeman is an earlier, more ornate, version of the Shah’s actual costume, accentuating the strong rhythms of the dancer’s body by depicting the fabrics and the skirt ornaments as moving and floating. With gold body paint and bejewelled outfit, Nijinsky commanded the stage with his voluptuous and feline performance as Zoebéide’s favourite slave. Against the set’s emerald green walls and red carpets, the massed costumes of dancers in frenzied motion created a moving spectacle of colour intensifying towards the ballet’s orgiastic and violent climax.
3. However, I would like to remark another ballet
Photograph of Michel Fokine as Prince Ivan and Tamara Karsavina as the Firebird in The Firebird, 1910. Music Div., Library of Congress.
Michel Fokine's 1910 ballet The Firebird was based on Russian fairy tales. The Firebird has magical powers. In order to escape capture by the young Prince Ivan, she gives him an enchanted feather that will summon her if he is in trouble…
Visually, the first Ballets Russes seasons were marked by Bakst´s exotic designs. His bejewelled colours, swirling Art Nouveau elements and sense of the erotic re-envisioned dance productions as total works of art.
Léon Bakst (1866-1924) Costume design for Firebird, signed and dated 'Bakst/1922' pencil, watercolour and gouache, heightened with gold and silver, on paper 26¾ x 19¼ in. (67.9 x 48.9 cm)
This is the work of art which I have chosen to analyse. The astonishing apparel of the Firebird builds movement and dynamism all around the design. The surreal nature of the character is reflected in the body features, its limbs, and basically its face.
Abstract lines define her neck and realistic proportion is deliberatedly abandoned.
Traditionally, the turkey’s feathers on the skirt and on the headdress stand for abundance, pride and fertility. Once again, it seems to play with symbolism reminiscence and irreverence.
A bracelet combining the dress oriental pattern with a large red stone completes the glowing spinning vision.
Bask had been entrusted previous works by Diaghilev. He was already a popular setting and costume designer in Paris. It was the beginning of the most successful moment for the Ballets Russes in Europe.
Nowadays, there is a certain rebirth of mythical dreamlands. As a result, I think this picture could belong to these fantastic kingdoms because it unfolds a sensuous, sophisticated and fascinating universe for us.