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Léon Bakst

Léon Bakst

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Léon Samoilovitch Bakst (May 10, 1866 – December 28, 1924) was a Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n painter
Painting
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...

 and scene- and costume design
Costume design
Costume design is the fabrication of apparel for the overall appearance of a character or performer. This usually involves researching, designing and building the actual items from conception. Costumes may be for a theater or cinema performance but may not be limited to such...

er. He was a member of the Sergei Diaghilev
Sergei Diaghilev
Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev , usually referred to outside of Russia as Serge, was a Russian art critic, patron, ballet impresario and founder of the Ballets Russes, from which many famous dancers and choreographers would arise.-Early life and career:...

 circle and the Ballets Russes
Ballets Russes
The Ballets Russes was an itinerant ballet company from Russia which performed between 1909 and 1929 in many countries. Directed by Sergei Diaghilev, it is regarded as the greatest ballet company of the 20th century. Many of its dancers originated from the Imperial Ballet of Saint Petersburg...

, for which he designed exotic, richly coloured sets
Set construction
Set construction is the process by which a set designer works in collaboration with the director of a production to create the set for a theatrical, film or television production...

 and costume
Costume
The term costume can refer to wardrobe and dress in general, or to the distinctive style of dress of a particular people, class, or period. Costume may also refer to the artistic arrangement of accessories in a picture, statue, poem, or play, appropriate to the time, place, or other circumstances...

s

Born as Lev (Leib) Samoilovich Rosenberg (Лев Самойлович Розенберг), he was also known as Leon (Lev) Nikolayevich Bakst (Леон (Лев) Николаевич Бакст).

Early life


Leon was born in Grodno (currently Belarus
Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

) in a middle-class Jewish family. After graduating from gymnasium
Gymnasium (school)
A gymnasium is a type of school providing secondary education in some parts of Europe, comparable to English grammar schools or sixth form colleges and U.S. college preparatory high schools. The word γυμνάσιον was used in Ancient Greece, meaning a locality for both physical and intellectual...

, he studied at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts
Imperial Academy of Arts
The Russian Academy of Arts, informally known as the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, was founded in 1757 by Ivan Shuvalov under the name Academy of the Three Noblest Arts. Catherine the Great renamed it the Imperial Academy of Arts and commissioned a new building, completed 25 years later in 1789...

 as a noncredit student, working part-time as a book illustrator.

At the time of his first exhibition (1889) he took the surname of "Bakst," based on his mother's maiden name. The surname "Rosenberg" was thought to be too Jewish and not good for business. At the beginning of the 1890s he exhibited his works with the Society of Watercolourists. From 1893 to 1897 he lived in Paris, where he studied at the Académie Julian
Académie Julian
The Académie Julian was an art school in Paris, France.Rodolphe Julian established the Académie Julian in 1868 at the Passage des Panoramas, as a private studio school for art students. The Académie Julian not only prepared students to the exams at the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts, but offered...

 while still visiting Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

 often. After the mid-1890s he became a member of the circle of writers and artists formed by Sergei Diaghilev
Sergei Diaghilev
Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev , usually referred to outside of Russia as Serge, was a Russian art critic, patron, ballet impresario and founder of the Ballets Russes, from which many famous dancers and choreographers would arise.-Early life and career:...

 and Alexandre Benois
Alexandre Benois
Alexandre Nikolayevich Benois , an influential artist, art critic, historian, preservationist, and founding member of Mir iskusstva , an art movement and magazine...

, which later became the Mir Iskusstva
Mir iskusstva
Mir iskusstva was a Russian magazine and the artistic movement it inspired and embodied, which was a major influence on the Russians who helped revolutionize European art during the first decade of the 20th century. From 1909, many of the miriskusniki also contributed to the Ballets Russes...

 art movement.

In 1899, he co-founded with Sergei Diaghilev
Sergei Diaghilev
Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev , usually referred to outside of Russia as Serge, was a Russian art critic, patron, ballet impresario and founder of the Ballets Russes, from which many famous dancers and choreographers would arise.-Early life and career:...

 the influential periodical Mir Iskusstva, meaning "World of Art." His graphics for this publication brought him fame.

Rise to fame


He continued easel
Easel
An easel is an upright support used for displaying and/or fixing something resting upon it.-Etymology:The word is an old Germanic synonym for donkey...

 painting as well producing portraits of Filipp Malyavin
Filipp Malyavin
Filipp Andreevich Malyavin was a Russian painter and draftsman. Trained in icon-painting as well as having studied under the great Russian realist painter Ilya Repin, Malyavin is unusual among the Russian artists of the time for having a peasant background...

 (1899), Vasily Rozanov
Vasily Rozanov
Vasily Vasilievich Rozanov was one of the most controversial Russian writers and philosophers of the pre-revolutionary epoch. His views have been termed the "religion of procreation", as he tried to reconcile Christian teachings with ideas of healthy sex and family life and not, as his adversary...

 (1901), Andrei Bely
Andrei Bely
Andrei Bely was the pseudonym of Boris Nikolaevich Bugaev , a Russian novelist, poet, theorist, and literary critic. His novel Petersburg was regarded by Vladimir Nabokov as one of the four greatest novels of the 20th century.-Biography:...

 (1905), Zinaida Gippius
Zinaida Gippius
Zinaida Nikolaevna Gippius, was a Russian poet, playwright, editor, short story writer and religious thinker, regarded as a co-founder of Russian symbolism and seen as "one of the most enigmatic and intelligent women of her time in Russia"....

 (1906). He also worked as an art teacher for the children of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia
Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia
Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia ) was a son of Emperor Alexander II of Russia...

. In 1902, he took a commission from Tsar
Tsar
Tsar is a title used to designate certain European Slavic monarchs or supreme rulers. As a system of government in the Tsardom of Russia and Russian Empire, it is known as Tsarist autocracy, or Tsarism...

 Nicholas II
Nicholas II of Russia
Nicholas II was the last Emperor of Russia, Grand Prince of Finland, and titular King of Poland. His official short title was Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias and he is known as Saint Nicholas the Passion-Bearer by the Russian Orthodox Church.Nicholas II ruled from 1894 until...

 to paint Meeting of Russian sailors in Paris.

In 1898, he showed his works in the Diaghilev-organized First exhibition of Russian and Finnish Artists; in World of Art exhibitions, as well as the Munich
Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

 Secession
Sezession
Secession refers to a number of modernist artist groups that separated from the support of official academic art and its administrations in the late 19th and early 20th century....

, exhibitions of the Union of Russian Artists, etc.

During the Russian Revolution of 1905
Russian Revolution of 1905
The 1905 Russian Revolution was a wave of mass political and social unrest that spread through vast areas of the Russian Empire. Some of it was directed against the government, while some was undirected. It included worker strikes, peasant unrest, and military mutinies...

, Bakst worked for the magazines, Zhupel, Adskaja Pochta, and Satyricon, then for an art magazine called Apollon.

Beginning in 1909, Bakst worked mostly as a stage-designer, designing sets
Set construction
Set construction is the process by which a set designer works in collaboration with the director of a production to create the set for a theatrical, film or television production...

 for Greek tragedies, and, in 1908, he made a name for himself as a scene-painter for Diaghilev with the Ballets Russes
Ballets Russes
The Ballets Russes was an itinerant ballet company from Russia which performed between 1909 and 1929 in many countries. Directed by Sergei Diaghilev, it is regarded as the greatest ballet company of the 20th century. Many of its dancers originated from the Imperial Ballet of Saint Petersburg...

. He produced scenery for Cleopatra (1909), Scheherazade
Scheherazade (Rimsky-Korsakov)
Sheherazade , Op. 35, is a symphonic suite composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1888. Based on One Thousand and One Nights, sometimes known as The Arabian Nights, this orchestral work combines two features common to Russian music and of Rimsky-Korsakov in particular: dazzling, colourful...

(1910), Carnaval (1910), Narcisse (1911), Le Spectre de la Rose
Le Spectre de la Rose
Le Spectre de la Rose is a ballet of the Ballets Russes based on a poem by Théophile Gautier. The music, by Carl Maria von Weber, was his 1819 piano piece Invitation to the Dance, in the 1841 orchestration by Hector Berlioz. Choreography was by Michel Fokine and set and costume design by Léon Bakst...

(1911), and Daphnis et Chloé
Daphnis et Chloé
Daphnis et Chloé is a ballet with music by Maurice Ravel. Ravel described it as a "symphonie choréographique" . The scenario was adapted by Michel Fokine from an eponymous romance by the Greek writer Longus thought to date from around the 2nd century AD...

(1912)). During this time, he lived in western Europe because, as a Jew, he did not have the right to live permanently outside the Pale of Settlement
Pale of Settlement
The Pale of Settlement was the term given to a region of Imperial Russia, in which permanent residency by Jews was allowed, and beyond which Jewish permanent residency was generally prohibited...

.

During his visits to Saint Petersburg he taught in Zvantseva's school, where one of his students was Marc Chagall
Marc Chagall
Marc Chagall Art critic Robert Hughes referred to Chagall as "the quintessential Jewish artist of the twentieth century."According to art historian Michael J...

 (1908–1910).

In 1914, Bakst was elected a member of the Imperial Academy of Arts
Imperial Academy of Arts
The Russian Academy of Arts, informally known as the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, was founded in 1757 by Ivan Shuvalov under the name Academy of the Three Noblest Arts. Catherine the Great renamed it the Imperial Academy of Arts and commissioned a new building, completed 25 years later in 1789...

.

In 1922, Bakst broke off his relationship with Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes. During this year, he visited Baltimore
Baltimore
Baltimore is the largest independent city in the United States and the largest city and cultural center of the US state of Maryland. The city is located in central Maryland along the tidal portion of the Patapsco River, an arm of the Chesapeake Bay. Baltimore is sometimes referred to as Baltimore...

 and, specifically Evergreen House
Evergreen Museum & Library
Evergreen Museum & Library, also known as Evergreen House, is a historical museum of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. It is located between the campuses of the College of Notre Dame and Loyola College...

 - the residence of his friend and patron, art philanthropist Alice Warder Garrett (1877-1952). Having met in Paris in 1914, when Mrs. Garrett was accompanying her diplomat husband in Europe, Bakst soon depended upon his then new American friend as both a confidante and agent. Alice Garret became Bakst's representative in the United States upon her return home in 1920, organizing two exhibitions of the artist's work at New York's Knoedler Gallery, as well as subsequent traveling shows. When in Baltimore, Bakst re-designed the dining room of Evergreen into a shocking acidic yellow and 'Chinese' red confection. The artist subsequently went on to transform the house's small c. 1885 gymnasium into a colorfully Modernist private theatre, which is currently believed to be the only extant private theatre designed by Bakst.

Bakst died in 1924 in Paris from lung
Lung
The lung is the essential respiration organ in many air-breathing animals, including most tetrapods, a few fish and a few snails. In mammals and the more complex life forms, the two lungs are located near the backbone on either side of the heart...

 problems.

In late 2010, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London presented an exhibit of Bakst's costumes and prints.

External links