Léon Bakst

Léon Bakst, Russian Artist, 1866-1924
Costume Design for a Woman from the Village, for the Ballet ‘Daphnis and Chloé’, performed at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, 1912, Watercolor and graphite, 26 × 21.6 cm, the MET, NY, USA https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/698631

It is goodbye to scenery designed by a painter blindly subjected to one part of the work, to costumes made by any old dressmaker who strikes a false and foreign note in the production; it is goodbye to the kind of acting, movements, false notes and that terrible, purely literary wealth of details which make modern theatrical production a collection of tiny impressions, without that unique simplicity which emanates from a true work of art… wrote Léon Bakst… and my students loved him!https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/l%C3%A9on-bakst-design-for-the-ballet

Léon Bakst (Lev Samoylovich Rosenberg, 1866-1924) was a Russian artist and designer, best known for his work in the fields of theatrical and costume design. He was born in Grodno, now in modern-day Belarus, and studied at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts. Bakst’s most significant contributions were to the Diaghilev Ballets Russes, a Russian ballet company that performed throughout Europe in the early 20th century. Bakst designed sets and costumes for many of the company’s most famous productions, including “The Firebird,” “Petrouchka,” and “The Rite of Spring.” In addition to his work with the Ballets Russes, Bakst also designed costumes for the Moscow Art Theatre and for various operas and plays. He was also an accomplished painter, creating works in a variety of styles including Art Nouveau, Symbolism, Art Deco, and Orientalism.

I am intrigued by the artist’s research into the art of ancient Greece which began in St Petersburg when preparing designs for productions of the Greek tragedies Hippolytus, Antigone, and Oedipus at Colonus in 1902 and 1904. It was apparently further enhanced in 1907 when Léon Bakst visited Greece with Valentin Serov, a journey which ‘had the most profound effect on the artist as it radically affected his palette and inspired his decorative imagination΄. In the Archaeological Museum in Olympia, looking at the statues of female figures, Bakst wrote… I want terribly to run my hand over the marble, to find out what Niobe’s(?) shoulders are like… https://hyperallergic.com/501125/hymn-to-apollo-ancient-greek-art-ballet-russes/ and https://poulwebb.blogspot.com/2022/01/leon-bakst-part-1.html

Léon Bakst, Russian Artist, 1866-1924
Costume Design for Tamara Karsavina as Chloé, for Daphnis et Chloé, ca. 1912, Graphite and tempera and/or watercolor on paper, 28.2×44.7 cm, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT, USA https://isaw.nyu.edu/exhibitions/ballets-russes/objects/72
Léon Bakst, Russian Artist, 1866-1924
Cleopatra, Costume for a Syrian woman, 1909, cotton, silk, metal studs, paint, length 110.0 cm, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Cleopatra, Costume for a Greek, 1909, silk, lamé, metallic braid, center back length 96.0 cm, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

The artist’s talent was boundless, wrote the State Tretyakov Gallery experts, reaching the very top in every field of art he touched upon – be it stage design, costume designs, graphics, or painting. There was much to explore… but my 4-Steps to Success Lesson Plan kept me… on track! https://artsandculture.google.com/story/the-collector-of-success-leon-bakst/VQUBSXEITyGILA

My students were enthused by Bakst’s style characterized by bold colors, sinuous lines, intricate patterns, and the use of exotic motifs. They were fascinated by his ability to draw inspiration from Russian folk art, Middle Eastern and East Asian cultures, and Classical Antiquity. His projects, they understood, were revolutionary at the time, and helped to establish a new standard for theatrical design. They were impressed by how contemporary his oeuvre appears and how his work continues to inspire designers and artists today.

A RWAP Student Activity (RWAP stands for: Research – Writing – Art – Project) in a PowerPoint format with eighteen examples of Designs and actual Costumes by Léon Bakst … HERE!

For a PowerPoint, please… Check https://www.teachercurator.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/LBakst-Art-PP.pdf

Léon Bakst, Russian Artist, 1866-1924
Costume design for Theseus, (Oedipus at Colonus performance at St. Petersburg, Alexandrinsky Theater), 1904, Watercolor and Pencil on Paper, 28 by 21 cm, Private Collection

SS Normandie Poster by Cassandre

Adolphe Jean-Marie Mouron, known as A.M. Cassandre, Ukrainian-French Artist, 1901-1968
SS Normandie, 1935,lithograph in colours, printed by Alliance Graphique, Paris, 98 x 61cm, Private Collection

SS Normandie was the ultimate transatlantic ocean liner – assuredly of the 1930s, but perhaps of the entire 20th century. She had abundance – she was novel, innovative, glittering, exceptionally advanced, truly sensational. Her French creators, designers and decorators sought perfection… SS Normandie Poster by Cassandre says it all! https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/articles/the-brief-but-glorious-career-of-ss-normandie/

SS Normandie ocean liner was a showcase of French technological prowess and Art Deco design.  Her purpose was distinctly threefold: To be the largest liner afloat (the first to exceed 60,000 tons and 1,000 feet in length), to be the fastest ship, and, thirdly, to be an extraordinary floating center of ‘everything French’ – from food to decor to style and fashion. A.M. Cassandre was invited… to create a Poster for her May 29, 1935, inaugural crossing to New York. The artist responded… and created his most iconic work, and the best-known image of the Normandie ocean liner. The simplicity and symmetry of Cassandre’s frontal view of the looming hull of the liner immediately convey its gigantic scale and streamlined elegance. https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/articles/the-brief-but-glorious-career-of-ss-normandie/ and https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1405126/normandie-poster-cassandre/

SS Normandie departing Le Havre on her maiden crossing to New York, May 29, 1935

As Cassandre explained… A Poster unlike a painting, is not, and is not meant to be, a work easily distinguished by its – manner – a unique specimen conceived to satisfy the demanding tastes of a single more or less enlightened art lover. It is meant to be a mass-produced object existing in thousands of copies like a fountain pen or automobile. Like them, it is designed to answer certain strictly material needs. It must have a commercial function. Cassandre’s revolutionary designs introduce a new visual vocabulary, graphic concepts, and challenges that artists found difficult to surpass.  http://hogd.pbworks.com/w/page/18698596/am%20Cassandre%20-%20Dubonnet%20poster

Adolphe Jean-Marie Mouron, known as A.M. Cassandre, 1901-1968

Cassandre’s work, almost a hundred years later, is still identified as a masterpiece of the Art Deco style… precise and boldly delineated geometric shapes and strong colours. In the SS Normandie poster, Cassandre’s sky is always blue and the sea is always green and the (mechanized) black prow cuts through the (natural) waves, leading a flock of white gulls, as it sets world speed records. What an intimidating, and dramatic composition! This is the first time an artist depicted a ship with an exaggerated and massive bow. This is the first time an artist brilliantly used thirteen white birds, on the left flank of the ship’s prow to further illustrate the massive size of the ocean liner, and give life to his composition. The artist foregrounded the modern technology on the front of the ship, dramatizing the power and speed of its huge engines while allowing the passenger cabins to flare out at the edges. Heralded by the French flag, the ship is tipped with streaks of red, acting as explanation points. https://arthistoryunstuffed.com/the-art-deco-posters-of-cassandre-part-two/

An advertisement for the Normandie and her first arrival in New York City on June 3, 1935, stated that The arrival in New York Harbor of the gigantic superliner Normandie will inaugurate a new era of transatlantic travel. She will set new standards of luxury and speed, steadiness comfort, and safety…not merely the largest liner afloat (79,280 tons)…but in almost every respect a new kind of liner! https://vmfa.museum/piction/6027262-328930764/

For a PowerPoint on Cassandre’s work, please… Check HERE!