Ballets Russes - Art, Design, Costume

Art, Design, Costume

The company invited the collaboration of rising contemporary fine artists in the design of sets and costumes. These included Benois himself, Bakst, Braque, Gontcharova, Larionov, Picasso, Chanel, Matisse, Derain, Miró, de Chirico, Dalí, Bilibin, Tchelitchev, Utrillo, Nicholas Roerich, and Rouault. Their designs contributed to the groundbreaking excitement of the company's productions. The scandal caused by the premiere performance in Paris of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring has been partly attributed to the provocative aesthetic of the costumes of the Ballets Russes.

In September 2008, on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Ballets Russes, Sotheby's announced the staging of an exceptional exhibition of works lent mainly by French, British and Russian private collectors, museums and foundations. Some 150 paintings, designs, costumes, theatre decors, drawings, sculptures, photographs, manuscripts, and programs were exhibited in Paris, retracing the key moments in the history of the Ballets Russes. On display were costumes designed by André Derain (La Boutique Fantasque, 1919) and Henri Matisse (Le Chant du Rossignol, 1920), and Leon Bakst. Posters recalling the surge of creativity that surrounded the Ballets Russes included Pablo Picasso's iconic image of the Chinese Conjuror for the audacious production of Parade (1917), and Jean Cocteau's poster for Le Spectre de La Rose (1911). Costumes and stage designs presented included works by Alexander Benois, for Le Pavillon d'Armide (1909) and Petrushka (1911); Leon Bakst, for La Péri (1912) and Le Dieu Bleu (1912); Mikhail Larionov, for Le Soleil à Minuit (1915); and Natalia Gontcharova, for The Firebird (1925 version). The exhibition also included important contemporary artists, whose works reflected the visual heritage of the Ballets Russes - notably an installation made of colorfully painted paper by the renowned Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave, and items from the Imperial Porcelain Factory in St. Petersburg.

An exhibition of the company's costumes held by the National Gallery of Australia was held from 10 December 2010 - 1 May 2011 at the Gallery in Canberra. Entitled "Ballets Russes: the art of costume, it included 150 costumes and accessories from 34 productions from 1909 to 1939; one third of the costumes had not been seen since they were last worn on stage. Along with costumes by Natalia Goncharova, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, André Derain, Georges Braque, André Masson and Giorgio de Chirico, the exhibition also featured photographs, film, music and artists’ drawings.

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