10 October 2009


Lev Rosenberg (Leon Bakst) was a Jewish artist born in Russia in 1866, just barely making the cut off for the Artbook. He studied at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, as well as the Academie Julian in Paris. Rosenberg had his first solo show in 1889, where he adopted the pen name "Bakst" from Baxter, the surname of his grandmother. He rose to fame with his illustrations in his periodical World of Art, which he cofounded with Sergei Diaghilev, an influential art critic and ballet dancer. World of Art became a strong Russian artistic movement at the turn of the century. Bakst moved into stage design in the early 20th century, constructing sets and costumes, as well as painting the dancers of the Ballet Russes (Diaghilev among them). This is where he found his niche, revolutionizing the world of theatre through striking color usage and elaborate motifs in both costumes and sets. He is associated with the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements. The Artbook brings to light a piece from this time period entitled "Costume Design for 'Oriental Fantasy,' " shown below.

"Costume Design for 'Oriental Fantasy' " depicts an ornamented dancer, focusing primarily on the patterning of the costume. The materialistic elements of the dancer's garb triumph, accentuating theatrical presentation and arousing nostalgia of the 19th century obsession with Eastern exoticism. With "fantastical" elements of Chagall and Oriental decorative patterns reminiscent of Klimt, this beautiful painting serves as one of the many examples of Bakst's great contribution to dramatic costume design and Russian art as a whole. 

Below are other examples of his work. His designs for Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty (1921) received particular acclaim amongst the rest. 

Portrait of Zinaida Gippius, 1906

Ida Rubinstein as Cleopatre, 1909

Costume for Tamara Karsavina in "The Firebird," 1909

La Sultane Bleu, 1910

Narcisse Bacchante, 1911

Design for the Costume of a Pilgrim, 1911

Fantasy on Modern Costume, 1912

Legend of Joseph Potiphar's Wife, 1914

The Wolf, Sleeping Beauty, 1921

Phedre and Theseus, 1923

Bakst's relationship with Diaghilev and the Ballet Russes declined in 1922, and was subsequently followed by terminal illness of which he died from in 1924. 

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