1866 - 1924

The artistic genuis of Léon Bakst

The State Tretyakov Gallery

Scene designer, graphic artist, painter, exhibitions and interiors decorator, costume designer. Book illustrator and designer, worked in the magazine graphics. Portraitist, landscape painter. Teacher.

The artistic genuis of Léon Bakst
Léon Bakst, Leyb-Khaim Izrailevich Rosenberg, was born in 1866 in Grodno into an orthodox Jewish family. Shortly after his birth, his grandfather, a merchant bearing the surname of Baxter, moved to Petersburg for commercial reasons and took his daughter’s family with him. It is his mother’s maiden name – Baxter – that will be subsequently shortened and adopted as the artist’s surname – Bakst.

In St. Petersburg, the boy gets enrolled in the 6th St. Petersburg Gymnasium, where he reveals his penchant for painting. Before graduating from the gymnasium, Bakst becomes an external student at the Imperial Academy of Arts, where he studies for 4 years.

In 1890, Bakst meets Alexander Benois, an artist, art historian, one of the founders and the mastermind of the “World of Art” society. Bakst not just becomes one of the members of society, but also takes active part in its activities, illustrating the “World of Art” magazine and decorating exhibitions.

Also, thanks to the “World of Art”, Bakst meets Sergei Diaghilev, a famous Russian theater and art figure and an impresario.

Since 1901, Bakst works for the theater – during his lifetime he was able to design scenes in the Hermitage, Alexandrinsky, Mariinsky Theaters, theaters in Paris and London, work with the troupes of Anna Pavlova and Ida Rubinstein. However, he became well-known all over the world thanks to the “Russian Seasons” by Sergei Diaghilev, annual performances of Russian artists abroad. Bakst designed both entire performances and several costumes for Russian Ballets in 1909-18 and in 1921-22.

Léon Bakst became the first Russian artist to achieve true recognition in the world of fashion. He created theatrical costumes, sketches of clothing and fabrics, collaborated with famous European fashion houses – Paquin, Poiret, Chanel. The desire to make the visible side of life harmonious, to give beauty and elegance to everyday life – that’s what attracted Bakst in fashion. He wrote: “There are no hot spots. Only some gray mud. A seeking, “hungry” eye has nothing to admire with delight… Yet you strive for joys, glee of colors not only in pictures, but also in clothes, in all human ways.”

Credits: Story

List of references:
Exchange News. 1914. Jan 20.
The Tretyakov Gallery Magazine. Yelena Terkel. Léon Bakst: “Dress Up Like a Flower!” No. 4/ 2009, (25)
Collection Catalogue of the State Tretyakov Gallery. Vol. 5: Painting of the late 19th – early 20th century. - M.: State Tretyakov Gallery, 2005. - 528 p. : Illustrated

Credits: All media
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