Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saturday Salon: A Favorite Painting or Two...or Three!

Stage design for Sleeping Beauty.

Stage design for Le Dieu Bleu.

Stage design for The Martyr of Saint Sebastian.

Stage design for Daphne et Chloe.

Stage design for Scheherazade.

Stage design for Scheherazade.


In keeping with the Halloween spirit today's post contains costumes - the brilliant paintings and sketches of his costumes, by Leon Bakst. Also, as you can see, I've included Bakst's gorgeous stage designs.

There are pictures of some of the actual costumes below.

Artist Leon Bakst (1866 - 1924) was a painter and designer born in Russia in what is now Belarus. He was a memorable leading light in the new profession of theater design, most especially once he began his inspired collaboration with the great cultural impresario, Sergei Diaghilev of the famed Ballets Russe.

Bakst designed extraordinary sets and costumes for The Firebird, Sleeping Beauty, Daphne et Chloe, Scheherezade and many other ballets. Nijinsky wore Bakst's costumes in his most famous role, Afternoon Of A Faun.


I've talked about Leon Bakst before, early on when I first began blogging. But this incredibly talented man's work is certainly worth another good look.

To learn more about Leon Bakst, please use this link.


From: The Bluebird

Costume from: The Bluebird.

Brigand's costume from: Daphnis et Chloe.

Costume from: Scheherazade.

Costumes from: Scheherazade.

Costume from: Carnaval. Learn how it was restored here.

Costume from: Sleeping Beauty.

Costume from: Le Dieu Bleu

Costume from: Le Dieu Bleu.

Who originally influenced who? There's such an incredible mixtue of elements - such a lively combo of styles, patterns and designs. Artists working during this very creative era couldn't help but influence each other. How could they not? Especially since several of them did do costume design. Even the young Picasso.

Bakst died in 1924 and Klimt in 1918, so they were working at around the same time. Matisse was working then too, though he didn't die until 1954. Raoul Dufy in 1953. Picasso, born in 1881, died in 1973,

Bakst, Matisse, Klimt, Dufy and others of the era and later, were certainly aware of each other's styles and techniques. Several of them knew each other. That alone is an influence.

All these brilliant artists breathing the dizzying air of creativity, of a new age, a vibrant new century. All, apparently, influenced by folk art traditions and 19th century Orientalism.

Is that how you see it? What do you think?

All costume and stage designs by Leon Bakst. Photos from various Google sources.


  1. Yvette, what a beautiful and fascinating article. I do beleive that artists of an era influence one another -- I think that's pretty natural in the course of things. Trends come and go in every era. The Scherezade costumes are particular favorites of mine. I don't know if you ever saw it, but I did an article about the staging of the Ballet Russe version of Scherezade as originally done, costumes and all. It is on a DVD with 2 other Ballet Russe ballets of that time, and is fantastic. The costumes are unbelievable. You and I have more in common than we already knew! Great article!

  2. Absolutely incredible set and costume designs.

    Agree with your last two paragraphs -- that they knew and influenced each other; the creativity and new age; folk art traditions and more influenced them.

    They were so talented. Beautiful, every one.

    Will send around this post with the art.

  3. Funny how many connections you run into when you read a lot! I'm reading Nothing Daunted, about two Eastern ladies who pick up and go out west to teach in a school in Colorado in 1916. But after graduating from Smith, they go on a Grand Tour and see Nijinsky in Scheherazade in Paris in 1910 and mention the beautiful and exotic sets and costumes by Leon Bakst. When I saw your blog today, I was struck that I had just read about him! And what beautiful artwork! I believe I saw some of his work at a museum within the last few years, but I can't remember which one.

  4. I really enjoyed seeing both the designs and actual costumes. I find it very interesting that Bakst drew costumes in the manner of their time and place — one figure stikes a Greek or Etruscan pose and another looks to have stepped from a Currier & Ives print. My favorites are the designs in motion, which I think are the most successful on all levels.

  5. Becky: I'll have to look for your piece on Bakst and the ballets. Send me the link in an email if you think of it. :)

    I would love to see the actual ballets with Bakst costumes.

    I'm glad you enjoyed my Saturday Salon. I love Leon Bakst's incredible work. I'm just happy that some of the costumes survived to modern day.

  6. Kathy, I can just see all that creative energy bouncing around from artist to artist. It was a very special time, I think.

  7. Joan: There stuff in the air, I'm convinced. Just when you see something intriguing, someone else is either talking about it or seeing it at the same time.

    It's spooky.

    But that's how it goes.

    And of course, since we're on computer, we know about it almost immediately. Osmosis. :)

  8. Mark: Yes, you wouldn't think he'd paint his designs in movement. But he did them so well. It's amazing stuff.

    I too enjoyed seeing the costumes in reality. I hadn't realized there were that many available. Ther are, actually even more, but I couldn't get access to them.

  9. Wow. The color here is enough to clear my eyes of mold. What an incredible talent. I love to go through costume rooms at theater that allow it. Quite a treat at Stratford in Canada, the GLobe in London.

  10. Yes, I agree, Patti. Leon Bakst was nothing short of incredible. His use of color was superb.

    I've never seen costumes in real life, except on stage. I too would love to see them at Stratford.

    I've yet to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume exhibits...One of these days. :)

  11. Gorgeous costumes. Costume design is one of those areas that never fails to impress me.

  12. Me too, Ryan. Leon Bakst was one of the very best.

  13. Leon Bakst's works are so imaginative and beautiful. It was so interesting to see the actual costumes, thankfully so well preserved. I do agree I see folk art traditions and 19th century Orientalism influence in them. Wonderful colors and opulence!

  14. Pat: Yes, they are over the top but in a most elegant way.

    Opulence. Yes. I love Leon Bakst.


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