Bakst, Leon (1866-1924) - 1910c. Costume Study for Nijinsky in his Role in La Peri (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City)
Watercolor; 67.6 x 48.9 cm.
Rosenberg Lev Samoylovich called Bakst was a painter and a stage designer of Belorussian birth. Born into a middle class Jewish family, Bakst was educated in St Peterburg, attending the Academy of Arts. Bakst traveled regularly to Europe and North Africa and studied in Paris with a number of notable artists at the Academie Julian. With Alexander Benois and Serge Diaghlev he was a founder of the WORLD OF ART group in 1898. In 1906 he became a drawing teacher at the Yelizaveta Zvantseva's private school in St Peterburg.
Bakst realized his greatest artistic success in the theatre. In 1909 he collaborated with Diaghilev in the founding of Ballets Russes, where he acted as artistic director, and his stages designs rapidly brought him international fame. Between 1909 and 1921 his name became inseparable from the Ballets Russes. He also designed for other celebrities, included the artist producers Vera Komissarzhervskaya in 1906, Ida Rubinstein between 1911 to 1924. He settled in Paris in 1912, having being exiled from St Peterburg where, as a Jew he was unable to obtain a residence permit.
Bakst was arguably the most accomplish painter, as well as designer, in the World of Art group. His early preferences were for Realist painters and Old Masters, such as Rembrandt and Velazquez. The animated line and relaxed postures in his portraiture also suggest the influence of his close friend Valentin Serov. Through Benois and his circle Bakst was attracted to "retrospectivism" and Orientalism, and motifs from ancient Greece and Egypt became signatures in his easel paintings and theoretical work. The Benois circle also introduced him to Symbolism and Art Nouveau.