The Orchestration of Colour: the art of Léon Bakst.
The coming of Léon Bakst
And now Russian ballet showed not only dancers in Covent Garden — Karsavina, Nijinsky and others, but also the décor and outfits, which caused criticism and, nonetheless, excitement. The costumes and stage sets were not fully understood by those who treated them as décor, though. Representatives of the old school believed they were too audacious in the sparkle of their primitive colors; others, from the new generation, were happy to witness their radiant beauty, embracing the madness of color as a path towards sanity. In a word, Bakst himself appeared in London — the capital, which was, as usual, the last one to surrender to the artist. Bakst became a matter of discussions; he was the very man to comprehend the spirit of any object and breathe life into the fantasies that he came up with. He was one of those who ventured into the unknown territory and succeeded. Very few have no idea who he is now. Line and color in motion
Therefore, the current edition of “Decorative Art of Léon Bakst” makes perfect sense — it is an amazing volume filled with admirable colorful copies of outstanding works by the artist, which also includes texts describing his ballet productions. “The wonderful series of stage-settings that Léon Bakst has given to the world,” Arséne Alexandre writes, “owe a great deal of their fascination to the strange blending of rich and sensuous beauty with a note of something sinister and menacing. From the first he was acclaimed a master of the harmony of line and colour in movement; that is one of his great secrets, and with each successive production his work has been more clearly recognised as an essential factor in and an integral complement of, the enchanting inventions of the poets and musicians with whom he has worked.”
It is quite strange that music, just as poetry, also causes fast-moving shapes and glistening colors to appear in front of our eyes.” This is the realm of Léon Bakst. He sees the color of music. Bakst can find all the silvery greens, the burning purples, and the dusky golds that are the very essence of life as it passes there.”
Bakst knows how to clothe his figures, Historical, Mythical, or Tragic, in “danceable” dresses, he sees his costumes in motion, in a specific movement of shapes…
About the man
About the man now.
According to Arséne Alexandre , Léon Bakst was born in St. Petersburg in 1868; he studied at the School of Fine Art there, but the atmosphere was too “official” for him. He went to Paris in 1895 where, for three years, he was the pupil of Edelfelt. Orders followed, but he became independent only as late as 1906. He decorated galleries and arranged a “bosquet” for the exhibition of Russian art. That job showed him that he needed to pay heed to the theater. He then painted the scenery for “Oedipus at Colonus” and for “Hippolytus”, as well as imperial theaters. Naturally, he was criticized. The artist was called a decadent, etc. He did not bother and pursued his goal — Paris lured him — and won the race. Reference to the book The Decorative Art of Leon Bakst. Review by Arséne Alexandre. Notes on ballet by Jean Cocteau. Translated from French by Harry Melvill. 77 illustrations (Fine Art Society, New Bond Street; 5 pounds). Caption: from the great scene designer known to London by costumes and scenery for the Russian Ballet: Hard Rain by Léon Bakst. Part of A.Korovin’s collection in St. Petersburg. Reproduced from the book The Decorative Art of Leon Bakst courtesy of The Fine Art publishers.