ABİDİN DİNO THE STAGE DESIGNER

This online exhibition aims to present the prolific and multifaceted practice of Dino through a selection of his stage designs for the opera Faustus Lights the Lights, libretto of which was written by Gertrude Stein. This group of works by the artist is being shown for the first time since its inclusion in the SSM’s Abidin Dino Archive.

Scenery Design by Abidin Dino (Turkish, 1913-1993)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

Abidin Dino's Stagecraft

Abidin Dino, who had been living and working in the Soviet Union since 1934, left for Paris in 1937 as the exiles and executions had become increasingly more frequent under Stalin’s regime. Throughout his stay in Paris, Dino forged strong friendships with prominent figures in the city’s art circles, especially with Tristan Tzara (1896-1963), Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) and André Malraux (1901-1976).

Scenery Design by Abidin Dino (Turkish, 1913-1993)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

Having seen Dino’s drawings, the renowned American writer Gertrude Stein asked for the artist’s help with a new operatic version of Faustus, the German folk legend, for which she was commissioned by the composer Lord Gerald Berners (1883-1950) to write the libretto.

Scenery Design by Abidin Dino (Turkish, 1913-1993)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

Influenced by his experience in the Soviet Union, he behaved more like a film director than an art director, and created for the writer a scenic design that resembled a storyboard rather than traditional sketches for stage sets; in which the actors and their movements were indicated, almost like an “illustrated filming scenario”.

Scenery Design by Abidin Dino (Turkish, 1913-1993)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

For Dino, “It was like a game between” them. He reflects on the experience in his book Kısa Hayat Öyküm (My Short Life Story). “Gertrude Stein would read out a section she had written and based on this text I would draw some things. Then she would look at what I had drawn and sometimes, influenced by the drawing, would make changes to the text. In my imagination there were huge electric bulbs. So Gertrude Stein put bulbs and lights into her Doctor Faustus.”

Scenery Design, Abidin Dino (Turkish, 1913-1993), From the collection of: Sakıp Sabancı Museum
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Scenery Design, Abidin Dino (Turkish, 1913-1993), From the collection of: Sakıp Sabancı Museum
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Scenery Design by Abidin Dino (Turkish, 1913-1993)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

Scenery Design, Abidin Dino (Turkish, 1913 - 1993), From the collection of: Sakıp Sabancı Museum
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Scenery Design, Abidin Dino (Turkish, 1913-1993), From the collection of: Sakıp Sabancı Museum
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Scenery Design by Abidin Dino (Turkish, 1913 - 1993)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

Scenery Design by Abidin Dino (Turkish, 1913 - 1993)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

Scenery Design by Abidin Dino (Turkish, 1913-1993)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

Dino was excited by the fact that Stein was “both one of the most important collectors of the period, and one of the first writers to recognise Picasso, Matisse and Braque”. Although this was a stage production, Dino proposed to Stein that she take a cinematographic approach.

Credits: Story

The drawings belong to Sabancı University Sakıp Sabancı Museum Painting Collection, accessible online at digitalSSM.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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