Saturday, September 23, 2017

Costume Designs by Léon Bakst
Wearable Art

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

Introduction[1]
Léon Bakst was born in Grodno on the Russia and Lithuania border (now Belarus) on the 10th May 1866. He died on the 27th December 1924 in Rueil-Malmaison. He attended the Academy of Fine Arts in St Petersburg from 1883 until he was expelled in 1887. Art school exposed him to the influence of the Russian Realist group - the Wanderers.

Léon Bakst.
Photography Courtesy of E.O. Hoppé.

Bakst started his career as a book illustrator and painter, achieving only moderate success as a portrait artists. In 1890 he met Alexandre Benois and joined the Nevsky Pickwickians, through whom he also met Diaghilev, founder of the Ballet Ruses.

Sergei Diaghilev at the London premier of the Saisons Russes (translated "Season Russia") 1911.
Photography Courtesy of J. de Strzelecki.

From 1893-97 he lived in Paris on and off, studying at the Académie Julian under Academist painter, Jean-Léon Gérome, whose interest in Orientalism and Greek mythology were related to Bakst. He visited Spain, Germany, Tunisia, Algeria and Greece, settling permanently in Paris in 1912 after being exiled from Russia.

From 1898-1904, Bakst was Diaghilev's art assistant for Mir Iskusstva. In 1901 he designed his first theatre work for Diaghilev - Léo Delibes' ballet, Sylvia. Although this production was never realized , from the time Bakst concentrated on designing both sets and costumes for various theatres in St. Petersburg.

In 1909, Bakst was invited to design productions for the first Saison Russe in Paris. He continued working with the Ballets Russes, becoming artistic director in 1911 until 1919. Bakst designed more of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes production that any other artist associated with the company, while also working as a freelance dress and costume designer for elect clients. Bakst designed for several productions in London and Paris and returned to the Ballets Russes to design The Sleeping Princess in 1921.


Costume Designs by Léon Bakst[2]

Comments[2]: Costume design for Ida Rubinstein in the "Dance of the Seven Veils (Salomé, 1908).
Technique and Material: Watercolor, gouache, bronze and silver paint and graphite on paper.
Size: 47 x 302 cm.

Comments[2]: Costume design for Ida Rubinstein as Cleopatra (1909).
Technique and Material: Watercolor and pencil on paper.
Size: 28 x 21 cm.

Comments[2]: Costume designed for an Odalique based on the ballet Schéhérazade (1911).
Technique and Material: Opaque watercolour, pencil, ink and metallic paint on paper mounted on board.
Size: 44.9 x 30 cm.

Comments[2]: Costume design for Shahriar (Aleksei Bulgakov) (1910).
Technique and Material: Watercolor, gouche and pencil on paper.
Size: 35.5 x 22 cm.

Comments[2]: Costume designed for a Béotien (1911).
Technique and Material: Watercolor, pencil and whitening on paper.
Size: 40 x 27.5 cm.

Comments[2]: Costume designed for a Béotien (ca. 1911).
Technique and Material: Canvas and painted cotton.

Comments[2]: Costume for Amoun (1909).
Technique and Material: Silk, brocade, metal and artificial pearls.

Comments[2]: Costume designed for a male servant (1910).
Technique and Material: Silk and satin.

Comments[2]: Costume for a Brigand: tunic and belt (1912).
Technique and Material: Examine of painted wool and cotton fabric.

Comments[2]: For a Brigand: tunic, culottes and belt (1912).
Technique and Material: Etamine of painted wool and cotton fabric.

Comments[2]: Costume for a Brigand: toga, trousers and belt (1912).
Technique and Material: Painted wool.


References:
[1] Ballets Russes – Art Of Costume, R. Bell (with essays by C. Dixon, H. Hammond, M. Potter and D. Ward), National Gallery Of Australia, Canberra (2010).

[2] Edited by J.E. Bowlt, Z. Tregulova and N.R. Giordano, A Feast of Wonders: Sergei Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, The Cultural Foundation, Skira Editore, Milano (2009).