28 December 1924, the Russian painter and scene- and costume designer Léon Bakst died in Paris at the age of 58.
“It is goodbye to scenery designed by a painter blindly subjected to one part of the work, to costumes made by any old dressmaker who strikes a false and foreign note in the production; it is goodbye to the kind of acting, movements, false notes and that terrible, purely literary wealth of details which make modern theatrical production a collection of tiny impressions without that unique simplicity which emanates from a true work of art.“ (Leon Bakst)
"La Sultane Bleue" - Léon Bakst's costume design for
Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade" (1910)
|Nijinsky as "Dieu Bleu", costume design by Léon Bakst (1911)|
Diaghilev and Bakst had worked together on several art projects until the Ballets Russes was launched in 1908 when the choreographer Michel Foukine’s approach to get rid of full evening story ballets like “Swan Lake”, enacted in front of a simple stage design and just the tutus decorated with symbols was first staged and both had taken to Foukine’s concept like fish to water. Bakst, bored of being just another painter and illustrator, went at the stage sets with a vengeance and created revolutionary decorations and costumes according to the relevant mood and setting of the staged musical piece, a literal explosion of Art Nouveau forms and colours and symbols. Diaghilev’ Ballets Russes and Bakst’s designs became all the rage all over the world, when “Cleopatra”, a one-acter, premiered in Paris in 1909 and, curiously enough, Kaiser Wilhelm, not exactly an Art Nouveau fan, who was present during the opening night, urged his Society of Egyptology to take Bakst’s mise-en-scene as an example.
|Léon Bakst's set design for "Cleopatra" or "Nuit d"Egypte" (1909)|
Until the war broke out, Bakst’s designs were an integral part for the very successful performances of Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade”, Schuman’s “Carnaval”, Debussy’s “L'après-midi d'un faune” and Ravel’s “Daphnis et Chloé” and then everything went pear-shaped anyway. After the Revolution, Bakst chose to remain in Paris after a short stay in the United States and a thorough falling out with Diaghilev. Artists like Pablo Picasso and Coco Chanel had, among others, filled Bakst’s role and while the Ballets Russes continued to be celebrated until 1929, one of his godfathers died in a Paris hospital, not forgotten but rather outdone by others. Nonetheless, he was led to rest by a host of admirers in an allegedly very moving ceremony who still cherished his contribution to one of the most beautiful and revolutionary total works of art.
And more about Leon Bakst on:
and a monographic show including some of his paintings can be found on: