The Ballets Russes

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Ballets Russes

Costume and Scenery Designs

"The Russian Ballet, also known as the Ballets Russes, was founded by Serge Diaghilev* (1872-1929). Diaghilev, the Russian Ballet's producer and creative director, rejected conventional ideas of ballet. His great achievement was to integrate design, music and dance. By encouraging the artistic collaboration of painters, choreographers and composers, Diaghilev created a new art-modern ballet. From 1909 until 1929 the company performed in Paris, throughout Europe and in North and South America. Ironically, the Russian Ballet company never appeared in Russia."[source]

ballerina sketches
Portrait: Olga Spessivtzeva*

Pencil and pastel drawing on paper by Maurice Charpentier, 1935, for a Serge Diaghilev production.

Pulcinella : scene drawing
Pulcinella : scene drawing

Inkwash on paper sketch by Ethelbert White (undated) for a production that included the dancer, Léonide Massine*.

Ballets Russes: sketch portrait of Tamara Karsavina
Salome: portrait of Tamara Karsavina*

Watercolour on paper sketch by George Barbier, 1914.

Costume design: [young man with swan]
Costume design: [young man with swan]

Undated gouache and pencil drawing on pasteboard by Nicolas Remisoff*.

La Valse: costume design for Vera Karalli
La Valse: costume design for Vera Karalli*

1922 gouache and silver leaf sketch by Pavel Tchelitchev* for a Berlin production.

Le Cirque : ballet set design
Le Cirque : set design

1927 gouache on paper drawing by Alexandra Exter for Le Cirque, a ballet by Elsa Krüger, a dancer and the manager of Berlin’s Russian Theatre.

Othello costume designs for swordsmen
Othello: costume designs for swordsmen

Gouache drawings from 1927 by Alexandra Exter

chalk sketches of German folkloric figures
Till Eulenspiegel : costume design : Foule [men]

1916 coloured chalk and pencil on paper design by Robert Jones for a ballet about the impudent German folkloric figure, Dyl Ulenspegel*, choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky*.

ballet scene design: bear in uniform with lady
Set design for an unidentified production

Gouache and pencil on pasteboard sketch by Nicolas Remisoff, possibly for a 1938 production of Beauty and the Beast.

anthropomorphic pig and fox drawings for the ballet, Petrushka
Petrouchka: costume design: civil servant disguised as a pig and worker disguised as a fox

Watercolour, pen and ink and pencil on paper: 1957 design by Alexandre Benois* for the Igor Stravinsky scored production of Petrouchka (Petrushka).

watercolour stylistic character sketches
Paganini: costume design : Scandal, Gossip, Greed and Jealousy

Undated watercolour sketch by Serge Soudeikine. The ballet, Paganini, emerged from a close collaboration between choreographer Michel Fokine* and composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, who together co-wrote the libretto. (premiered in 1939)

scene design: sketch of ruins
Scene design for unknown production

Undated gouache drawing on illustration board by scenery and costume designer, Andre Delfau.

sketch of angry clown
Costume design for unknown production: Clown

Undated crayon drawing by Serge Soudeikine.

male face caricature ballet design sketch
Four Seasons: character study: Man with Pipe

Undated crayon drawing by Serge Soudeikine.

stylised gouache sketch of 2 men
Death of Tarelkin: costume design: [two men]

Undated gouache and pencil on paper sketch by Alexandra Exter [or Ekster] (d. 1949), who is described on wikipedia as "a Russian-Ukrainian painter (Cubo-Futurist, Suprematist, Constructivist) and designer."

costume design sketch: stylised beak-faced figure
Death of Tarelkin : costume design : beak-nosed figure

1921 gouache sketch by Alexandra Exter.

[click through for enlarged versions; in most cases much larger images are available from the source site; some of the above images have been cropped and background spot-cleaned modestly; most of the notes above are quoted or paraphrased; a few more images were saved in this set]

Russian Theatre Designs from the Harvard Theatre Collection - Most of these are associated with productions of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. Note that there is a thirty minute access timer once you click through so don't -ahem!- save forty URLs expecting to view them later but John informs me that there is a 'bookmark this item' link for each image that I didn't notice.

Review of the collection in Harvard Magazine.

Wikipedia has a reasonable background to the Ballets Russes and a fair sampling of related links.

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