Since his days as a student in Düsseldorf, August Macke harbored a special love for dance. In Cologne in 1912, he saw the ballet Carnaval, set to music by Robert Schumann. It was performed by the famous Ballets Russes of Sergei Diaghilev, with Vaslav Nijinsky in the leading role as Harlequin. Macke attended the performance several times, creating no less than four paintings, a sculpture, and around forty drawings on this subject, four of which are in the possession of the Kunsthalle Bremen’s Department of Prints and Drawings. In Ballet Russes I, he allows the viewer to relive the dramatic climax of the piece: the dashing Harlequin’s abduction of the coquettish Columbine. The third figure, Pierrot, who has been abandoned, raises his arms plaintively—a gesture echoed by the caryatid below the parapet of the loge. The woman with the hat at the right serves as a compositional link between the darkened audience and the brilliantly lit stage. In its formal reduction and strong colors, Ballet Russes I bears witness to the strong influence the Fauves exerted on Macke.


  • Title: Ballet Russes I
  • Creator: August Macke
  • Date Created: 1912
  • Physical Dimensions: 103.0 x 81.0 cm
  • Type: painting
  • Rights: Kunsthalle Bremen - Der Kunstverein in Bremen
  • Medium: Oil on cardboard

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