When Braque met ballet: highlights from The Golden Age of the Ballets Russes

Chanel, Matisse, Picasso and Bakst - the unstoppable influence of Diaghilev and his 'itinerant' dance company
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Pablo Picasso, Front cloth used for Le Train Bleu performance (1924)

1 / 8 Pablo Picasso, Front cloth used for Le Train Bleu performance (1924)

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Henri Matisse, Costume for a Mandarin in Le Chant du Rossignol (1920)

3 / 8 Henri Matisse, Costume for a Mandarin in Le Chant du Rossignol (1920)

Natalia Goncharova, Stage backcloth for the Wedding Scene in The Firebird (1926)

4 / 8 Natalia Goncharova, Stage backcloth for the Wedding Scene in The Firebird (1926)

Léon Bakst, Costume for the Prince in L`Oiseau d`Or (1909)

5 / 8 Léon Bakst, Costume for the Prince in L`Oiseau d`Or (1909)

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Georges Braque, Costume for Flore in Massine's Zephyre et Flore (1925)

7 / 8 Georges Braque, Costume for Flore in Massine's Zephyre et Flore (1925)

Serge Diaghilev

8 / 8 Serge Diaghilev


From it's inception in 1909, the Ballet Russes was bound up with the avant garde arts scenes of the early 20th century. As shown by the works on view as part of the Victoria and Albert Museum's current exhibition, Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballet Russes (on show until 9 January 2011) with the charismatic Sergei Diaghilev at the helm the troupe worked with some of the most revered names of the era; Chanel, Picasso, Matisse among others ('genius mixed with flamboyance – and Diaghilev had both – is a flame to a moth in the arts').

Leon Bakst's 'bejewelled colours, swirling Art Nouveau elements and sense of the erotic' characterised early Ballet Russes seasons. Natalia Goncharova began designing for the company in 1921. And Picasso and Chanel were both involved - together with Jean Cocteau - on the 1924 production Le Train Bleu, for which Picasso created a vast backdrop.

Diaghilev's achievements continue to inspire the worlds of art, theatre, music and dance. Christian Dior, Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent have all acknowledged the vision of this amazing Russian impresario in their creations. There is a clear connection between the ground-breaking work of the Ballets Russes and contemporary designers and artists such as Vivienne Westwood and the Chapman brothers. The scores of Stravinsky, de Falla and others continue to be performed around the world, and, remarkably, the repertoire of the Ballet Russes remain an invaluable resource for choreographers today. 

 


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