Leon Bakst Three Costume designs from Le Dieu Bleu Ballet 1911

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Actual Size: 10.5 x 15.5


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Three iconic Leon Bakst costume designs for Le Dieu Bleu ( The Blue God  ) a ballet choreographed by Michel Fokine and written by Jean Cocteau. The ballet premiered in Paris in 1912. It tells the story of a girl who tries to dissuade her fiancé from becoming a priest and is thereafter tormented by demons; but she is eventually saved by the Blue God, a part performed by Vaslaw Nijinsky, the greatest male dancer of his time. Fokine’s choreography and Bakst’s costumes drew upon Siamese dance and Hindu sculpture. These three prints are vintage reproductions quite unlike the reproductions of today. They each have the look of original watercolors  and are backed on heavy grey rag paper with a hand painted gold border. Properly framed they will definitely look like the original drawing. The size of the actual prints varies slightly but the background paper size is consistently 10.5 x 15.5.

Born in Russia in 1866, Léon Bakst belonged to a young generation of European artists who rebelled against 19th-century stage realism, sparking a revolution in theatre design. His fame lay in the sets and costumes he designed for Serge Diaghilev’s (1872 – 1929) legendary dance company the Ballets Russes, and his huge pageant spectaculars for the dancer and patron of the performing arts, Ida Rubinstein (1883 – 1960). After graduating secondary school, he traveled to St. Petersburg to study at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts as an unenrolled student, working as a book illustrator to support himself. In order to help pay the bills, he also taught art to the children of Grand Duke Vladimir. Marc Chagall was also one of his students. He began exhibiting in the 1890’s with the Society of Watercolorists, as he continued his studies at the Academie Julian, making important connections with prominent artists. In the late 1890’s he founded, along with Sergei Diaghilev, the Mir Iskusstva, or “World of Art,” movement. He illustrated many graphics for their publication, drawing him praise and popularity. Until the end of the century, he continued to paint and receive commissions, from as high up as Tsar Nichols II himself. Scheherazade, performed in 1910 at the Théâtre national de l’Opéra in Paris, featuring the dancers Vaslav Nijinski and Ida Rubinstein, proved a particular sensation, creating a sense of rich, fevered claustrophobia and mystery – a living canvas of sensuality and decadence. Bakst’s costumes are richly decorated with myriad motifs and decorative shapes. Dense surface textures mix appliqué with painting, dying, and embroidery using flocking, beading, sequins, metal studs, braids and decoration, pearls and jewels. Bakst gained international fame for his celebrated designs, and came to be regarded as the artistic director of the Ballets Russes during their heyday (1909 – 14). He died in 1924 but his influence was far-reaching, even beyond the world of ballet. His extraordinary designs spilled over into both fashion and interior design, introducing looser-fitting clothing styles and sweeping away drab colours.